Wed, 05 Oct 2022

Dubai [UAE], August 11 (ANI): Sri Lankan batting legend Mahela Jayawardene opines that star Pakistan batter Babar Azam can dethrone England batting star Joe Root from the top ranking in Test cricket.

Root has been ruling at the top of the Test batter rankings since June this year and he is in fine form over the last year or so. The arrival of new Test head coach Brendon McCullum has elevated his game to a new level. He has scored more runs than anyone in Tests in this decade and claimed the ICC Men's Test Player of the Year award in 2021.

In 2022 itself, he has scored 927 runs in nine matches at an average of 61.80 and a best score of 176. He has scored five centuries and one fifty.

Jayawardene feels that Azam is the most likely player to claim the top spot next.

"Tough one! I would say Babar Azam has an opportunity. He has been consistent in all three formats and it shows in his rankings. He is a naturally gifted player, plays in all conditions, he has got the game to adapt as well. It depends on the amount of cricket, who is playing when and how much but the Babar might be the guy," said Jayawardene on ICC Review.

Babar is currently the only batter who is in the top three across all formats of cricket, occupying the top spots in white-ball cricket and number 3 spot in Tests.

This year in five Tests, Babar has scored 661 runs at an average of 73.44 and a best of 196. He has scored two centuries and four half-centuries.

"T20Is and ODIs, it is tough one to hold on to because there are a lot of good players who have to be consistent. As long as he can be that, because he has a very good role to play in that Pakistan setup - they have batters to bat around him, so he can play his own game - he should be able to hold on to that and at the same time, push himself to get better. He batted really well in Sri Lanka. I think Prabath (Jayasuriya) was his nemesis - he got him three times out of the four innings. That was a very good battle to watch. Babar got a really good hundred in the first Test match," said Jayawardene.

"He is always going to push himself to get better. Seen in a couple of his interviews recently that it is his goal as well to be No.1 across the table. There's no harm in challenging yourself to get there. Being the captain as well, he has taken responsibility and performed, which is great to see. (It is) Not an easy thing to do. I would put my money on him at least for a little while to hold to all three but there are some good quality players around who will keep pushing him," he added.

The Sri Lankan is impressed by the time that the Pakistan skipper has while he is on the crease.

"(I) think it is just the technique, the time that he has and the composure that he has out there in the middle. He is not rattled at any time, whether he plays T20Is, ODIs or Tests, he adjusts quite brilliantly. Joe (Root) in Test cricket is the same. He knows what he needs to do, he can the tempo when he wants to, bats to what the conditions offer. Babar has that same quality, so that's why he's been so consistent in all three formats," he said.

Both the stars will come face to face in December when England will tour Pakistan for a three-match Test series. Root has a series against South Africa to solidify his top spot, while Babar will have to wait till series against England later this year to present his case. (ANI)

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