Babar Azam guides one to the third-man during the third T20 against New Zealand. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Babar Azam, who went one up on Virat Kohli on Sunday night to be the fastest man to reach the 1000-run mark in Twenty20 Internationals, has become the toast of Pakistan cricket.

He reached the mark ahead of the prolific Indian captain by one innings in the third and final Twenty20 International against New Zealand at the Dubai International stadium to prove that he is among the most consistent batsmen in world cricket at the moment.

"I pray to Allah that I can keep achieving more. It is not a big difference if I open the batting or come one-down, it is about the team’s requirement."

 — Babar Azam


Speaking after bagging the Man of Match award with his knock of 79 off 58 balls (with seven boundaries and two sixes) that gave Pakistan a healthy total of 166 for three, Azam said: “I knew I had broken Kohli’s record. I pray to Allah that I can keep achieving more. It is not a big difference if I open the batting or come one-down, it is about the team’s requirement. For me it is always about the team, not records.” Pakistan defeated New Zealand by 47 runs and completed a back-to-back series sweep on Sunday.

In T20, Azam now has an average of 54.26 and in One-Day Internationals, he averages 51.92. Azam piles up runs quickly and before anyone is aware, he races to his half century. Talking about his batting style, he said: “I usually keep it simple and go for my shots when the ball is in my areas. I take the odd chance too.”

For Azam, who started playing for Pakistan from May 2015, it has been a smooth ride so far. He hit his eighth half-century in T20I on Sunday and has also eight half-centuries and eight centuries in One-dayers. The youngster has the potential to fill in the vacuum left by Younis Khan at the top of the order.

Azam is the first cousin to Akmal brothers and had come up the ranks by scoring consistently from junior cricket. In ODIs too, he became the fastest man to score 1000 career runs in just 21 innings and shared the record with Viv Richards, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, and Quinton De Kock — who all had reached the mark in 21 innings. He is also second fastest to reach the 2000-run mark in ODIs and joined greats like Zaheer Abbas and Pietersen who too did it in 45 innings. Azam also has to his credit the highest number of centuries and highest number of runs in the first 25 ODI innings.

Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmad attributed a lot of his team’s successive clean sweep victories over Australia and New Zealand to the inspiring performance of Azam. “When our players set such records, it feels very good. The way Babar got to 1000 runs, Shadab Khan getting the most wickets this year and Mohammad Hafeez coming back and doing so well are very good,” said Sarfraz.

Azam had earlier won the Man of the Series in Pakistan’s clean sweep win over Australia. After receiving the award, Azam said: “I try to keep my focus and perform in every game. My role in every game is to bat through. I plan my innings at regular intervals.” He is Pakistan’s answer to their long standing prayer for batting stability.