India wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik feels Pakistan skipper Babar Azam has it in him to become the world No. 1 batter in all three formats of the game, which will be a unique first in the annals of the game.
The 27-year-old Azam already has the top ICC billing in both white-ball formats, but is ranked fifth in the longest format behind the likes of Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and prolific England run-getter Joe Root.
But Karthik, who has played a key role in Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) securing a Qualifier 2 berth in IPL 2022, is quite confident that the Pakistan captain will soon be topping the ICC Test batting charts as well.
“One-hundred per cent (he is capable of achieving that),” Karthik told The ICC Review on Friday. “He is a high-quality player who is at the peak of his batting prowess and he has got some Test matches coming up.
“He has been phenomenal in all three formats of the game and he has done well in different batting positions too. I wish him all the best and think he has the potential. He has got all the following of Pakistan helping him in abundance to go on and do special things for his country,” added Karthik.
Azam is close to achieving 3,000 Test runs and has so far played 40 matches, with a highest of 196. He has smashed six centuries and averages a healthy 45.98, besides scoring 21 half-centuries.
Australia batter Labuschagne is currently ranked first in the Test batting ranks, but it’s been the ‘Big Four’ of India’s Virat Kohli, England’s Joe Root, Australia’s Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson that have dominated red-ball cricket for the past decade.
While Babar still has much to do to match the feats of the ‘Big Four’, Karthik thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Pakistan right-hander joins the group.
“It is a very strong ‘Fab Four’ that we are talking about and they have obviously been there for much longer, but there is no doubt that Babar has all the credentials and he is going to make it a ‘Fab Five’,” said Karthik.
“There is no doubt he is there or thereabouts… he is a very special player.”
Karthik noted that Azam had made subtle changes in his batting technique of late, which had helped him become a better cricketer.
“The two things that struck me when I watched him bat is his balance and his striking point when he plays a ball. Whether it is on the front foot or the back foot, his ability to strike the ball more often than not under his eyes has been phenomenal. He strikes the ball at the point where it is optimum power for where the ball is pitched and that makes him a very special player.”
Karthik, who recently made a re-entry into the India national side being selected in the squad for the five match-T20I series at home against South Africa, added that he was confident the Pakistan cricketer would develop further.
“When you play international cricket you have got to keep changing a little bit here and there to keep improving your technique. Sometimes just by one per cent a lot of the time so that you can go on and achieve success in that particular tour you are on, so I think he has definitely tweaked his technique a bit here and there over a period of time,” added Karthik.
(Inputs from IANS)