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ICC World Cup 2019: Michael Clarke names this player as ‘Virat Kohli of Pakistan’

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 26-05-2019 HT Correspondent
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Heaping praise on Pakistan top order batsman Babar Azam, former Australia World Cup winning captain Michael Clarke termed him the 'Virat Kohli of Pakistan.'

Clarke's comments came after Babar Azam slammed a sparkling century in Pakistan's first warm-up game against Afghanistan on Friday.

"Babar Azam is real class no doubt about that. For me, he's the Virat Kohli of Pakistan's line-up. If Pakistan want to qualify for the semi-finals or final, a lot will depend on his young shoulders," Clarke said during commentary.

Azam scored 112 off 108 balls but rest of the Pakistan batters failed as Afghanistan restricted them to 262 in 47.5 overs.

In reply, Hashmatullah Shahidi hit an unbeaten 74 as the World Cup underdogs stunned former champions Pakistan to win by three wickets with two balls to spare.

However, Pakistan would take a lot of positives from Azam's form. He was among runs even in the recently concluded ODI series against England and comparisons with Kohli too is nothing new for the Pakistan No. 3.

Azam's international career is just over 100 matches old, but his prowess with the bat has already broken several records.

He is the fastest batsman to reach 1,000 T20I runs, taking 26 innings to get there and dethroning Kohli in the process.

He also reached 1,000 ODI runs in 21 innings, a record he shared with an elite group of players, including West Indies great Viv Richards and England power-hitter Kevin Pietersen, until his Pakistan team mate Fakhar Zaman broke it last year.

Azam's classy stroke-making has provided the platform for his record-breaking run spree, and he often single-handedly drives Pakistan to competitive totals in sluggish conditions in the United Arab Emirates, the national team's adopted home.

"We have some serious batsmen in our team but he has the ability to be as good as anyone in the world," Arthur said of the right-handed batsman. "If he's getting us a 100, we're comfortable we have the batsmen around him to get 300-320.

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"Over the last two years, his strike rate is around 80 and he knows he needs to increase that, as do some of the other batsmen and we've spoken about that."

Pakistan have come up short since the start of 2019, beaten by South Africa, Australia and England. Some impressive totals on small grounds against England this month do not disguise the fact that the team needs more runs in the middle overs.

That again encourages comparisons with Kohli, who has often had to hold a thin Indian middle order together and use every opportunity to score in the powerplays.

Azam is confident he can switch gears if the situation demands more aggression.

"If I can be number one in the world without power hitting, then I don't need power hitting," he said. "But when I need to, I utilise it well.

"My individual role is to take the innings as deep as I can and perform in a way that benefits the team most."

(With Agency Inputs)

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(Video provided by ESPNcricinfo)

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