Babar Azam Life Journey - From Ball-picker to All-format Best Batter

Usama Raza
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Babar Azam: Transitioning from Ball Collector to Cricket Luminary

Babar Azam resonates profoundly with enthusiasts of cricket worldwide. He formerly led the Pakistan national cricket team across all formats and stands as one of the premier batsmen in contemporary cricketing realms. Presently, he holds the pinnacle spot among batters in ODIs, ranks fourth in T20Is, and fifth in Tests, as per the ICC rankings. His career has been punctuated by numerous record-breaking feats and notable milestones. But, how did he metamorphose into the cricketing virtuoso we witness today? Let us delve into his odyssey from being a mere sphere collector to becoming the paramount batter across all formats. 

Genesis and Inspirational Foundations

Born on 15 October 1994 in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan, Babar Azam hails from a lineage deeply entrenched in cricketing traditions. He shares kinship with the Akmal brothers: Kamran, Umar, and Adnan, thus inheriting a familial connection with cricket. Babar's formative years were spent immersed in cricketing pursuits alongside his cousins, igniting within him a fervent ardor for the sport. He drew inspiration from the venerable Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad, a close acquaintance of his uncle, meticulously studying Miandad's batting prowess to refine his own.

Babar's tryst with cricket commenced as a sphere collector at the Lahore Gymkhana Club, where he diligently retrieved balls from nets and turf alike. His innate talent and unwavering dedication caught the discerning eyes of coaches and players, earning him swift ingress into the club's junior ranks. Subsequently, he enrolled in the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, immersing himself in structured training under the tutelage of erstwhile Pakistani cricket luminaries.

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Babar Azam Life Journey - From Ball-picker to All-format Best Batter

Ascendancy to Prominence

Babar's ascent in the domestic cricketing echelons was underscored by his consistent displays of batting prowess across various teams including Zarai Taraqiati Bank, Islamabad Leopards, State Bank of Pakistan, Sui Southern Gas Corporation, and Central Punjab. His forays into international cricket commenced with appearances for Pakistan at the Under-15, Under-19, and Under-23 levels, where he emerged as Pakistan's leading run-scorer in the 2010 and 2012 Under-19 World Cups.

His international debut unfolded in 2015 during an ODI encounter against Zimbabwe in Lahore. Babar's inaugural innings yielded 54 runs, etching his name as the third Pakistani batsman to secure a half-century on debut. Subsequent performances cemented his berth in the ODI squad, with seamless transitions into the Test and T20I setups, solidifying his stature as a dependable and versatile batsman across all formats.

Babar's meteoric rise came to the fore in 2016, epitomized by three consecutive centuries against West Indies in the UAE, a feat unparalleled in ODI history. He clinched the title of the joint-fastest player to amass 1,000 ODI runs, accomplishing the milestone in a mere 21 innings. The following year witnessed an unprecedented spree of five consecutive ODI centuries, including a career-defining 158 against England at Cardiff. His remarkable achievements culminated in his inclusion in the ICC ODI Team of the Year and the prestigious accolade of Pakistan ODI Player of the Year.

In the T20I domain, Babar's prowess manifested in his record-breaking exploits, emerging as the fastest batsman to breach the 1,500 and 2,000 run-mark thresholds. His crowning glory came in 2021 with a scintillating maiden T20I century, amassing 122 runs off 59 deliveries against South Africa at Centurion. He scripted history by becoming the inaugural batsman to amass over 1,000 T20 runs in consecutive years (2020 and 2021), garnering recognition in the ICC T20I Team of the Year and clinching the Pakistan T20I Player of the Year award.

In the Test arena, Babar's mettle shone through with nine centuries and 26 half-centuries amassed in 52 matches. His maiden Test century against West Indies in Dominica (2017) marked him as the sixth Pakistani batsman to notch a century in all three formats. Noteworthy was his highest Test score of 196 against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi (2018), further solidifying his stature. His prolific performances earned him recognition as Pakistan's leading Test run-scorer in the 2018-19 season and a berth in the ICC Test Team of the Year.

Captaincy and Triumphs

Babar's leadership ascension commenced with his appointment as Pakistan's T20I captain in 2019, succeeding Sarfaraz Ahmed. His inaugural stints witnessed series triumphs against Bangladesh and a historic series draw against England, alongside etching his name as one of the most successful T20I captains, boasting 42 victories in 54 matches. Subsequent elevations saw him assume the mantle of Pakistan's ODI and Test captaincy in 2020 and 2021 respectively, thus becoming the custodian of leadership across all formats.

Under Babar's astute captaincy, Pakistan scripted memorable victories, propelling them to the zenith of international cricketing realms. A watershed moment arrived in 2021 when Pakistan ascended to the numero uno position in the ODI rankings following series victories against South Africa and England. Noteworthy was their valiant journey to the final of the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, albeit falling short to India by a slender margin. Babar's stewardship further steered Pakistan to historic Test series triumphs in South Africa (2021) and England (2023).

Individually, Babar etched his name in the annals of cricketing lore with myriad personal milestones and accolades. He became the first Pakistani and the second globally to register centuries across all three formats as captain. Furthermore, he notched 1,000 runs in a calendar year across ODIs and T20Is, alongside amassing 2,000 runs as T20I skipper, thus etching his indelible mark. His myriad accomplishments culminated in him becoming the seventh cricketer to amass 10,000 international runs across all formats, and the fifth to amass 5,000 ODI runs among Pakistanis.

Babar's contributions were duly recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan's third-highest civilian honor (2021), and an honorary commission as Lieutenant in the Pakistan Navy (2022). He further adorned his mantle with the ICC Men's ODI Player of the Year (2021) and ICC Men's T20I Player of the Year (2022) awards, alongside nominations for the ICC Men's Test Player of the Year and ICC Men's Cricketer of the Year (2023).

Resignation and Aspirations

In November of 2023, Babar made public his decision to step down from the role of captain across all formats, after the 2023 Cricket World Cup held in India, where Pakistan managed to reach the semi-finals. He attributed personal motives and the necessity to concentrate on his batting prowess as the primary catalysts behind his choice. He extended his gratitude to the Pakistan Cricket Board, his fellow teammates, mentors, supporters, and family for their unwavering backing and collaboration during his tenure as captain. Furthermore, he conveyed appreciation to the former leaders and stalwarts of Pakistani cricket for their counsel and motivation.

Babar asserted his commitment to continue representing Pakistan as a prominent batsman and senior member of the squad, pledging wholehearted support to the incoming captain and the team in all conceivable manners. He articulated aspirations yet to be realized and dreams yet to be fulfilled as an athlete, vowing to pursue them in the forthcoming years. Additionally, he expressed a desire to participate in various international leagues and tournaments, eager to embrace fresh opportunities and confront new trials. Moreover, he articulated a wish to contribute to the advancement and propagation of cricket within Pakistan, aspiring to kindle inspiration among the forthcoming generation of cricketers.

Undoubtedly, Babar Azam stands as one of the preeminent cricketers of his era and among the most distinguished ambassadors of the sport. His accomplishments have brought honor to Pakistan and garnered admiration and reverence from the cricketing community and enthusiasts worldwide. He has demonstrated that with diligence, devotion, and fervor, the impossible becomes achievable. Furthermore, he has exemplified that one's deeds become commendable with modesty, elegance, and integrity. Truly, he embodies the essence of cricketing greatness and serves as a beacon of inspiration for countless individuals. Such is the stature of Babar Azam, the luminary of cricket.

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