Pakistan's Babar Azam at same level as Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, says Nasser Hussain

August 05, 2020

Nasser Hussain believes "world class" Babar Azam is on the same level as Virat Kohli or Steve Smith and will be key if Pakistan are to beat England.

The 25-year-old made a good start, registering his 14th Test fifty on the opening day of the three-match series at Emirates Old Trafford, reaching 69 by the close.

It continues a fine run of form for the Pakistan No 4, who averages more than any other player in Test cricket since the start of 2018.

"Pakistan have a world class batsman in Babar Azam," Hussain said. "It's not only his stats but the way he gets them, how elegant a player he is.

"He plays through that offside beautifully, a lovely driver of the ball, good off the front foot and the back foot. He's a very, very watchable young man, he really is. Outstanding player.

"I think for Pakistan to win this series, Babar Azam needs to have a good series. If he has a good series, it will be very, very watchable. He is a gun player."

While Babar is highly regarded throughout world cricket, Hussain believes he still goes under the radar somewhat, particularly in comparison to the 'fab four' of Kohli, Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root.

"I think it is a real shame and it is in part a consequence of Pakistan playing away from home, playing in the UAE all the time in front of no one, Pakistan hiding in the shadow of Indian cricket, not going over and playing IPL cricket, not playing India," he added.

"If this lad was Virat Kohli, everyone would be talking about it but because it is Babar Azam, no one is talking about it. He averages 68 since 2018 and 55 in white-ball cricket. He's young, he's elegant, he's got all the swagger.

"They keep going on about the fab four, it's the fab five and Babar Azam is in that."

Having first made an impact in white-ball cricket, Babar is now excelling in the longer form of the game as well.

"I've been trying to figure out why he has got better recently in Test cricket," Hussain said. "I think he is playing pace a lot better and he is playing the ball later.

"High class. People get runs but also you've got to remember that you're trying to entertain people and when this lad bats and gets hundreds like he has been, he is so, so watchable.

"He's such a good player, he's in good nick. He did it in white-ball cricket at the start of his career but couldn't quite sort out Test cricket but we showed the stats earlier and since 2018 he's been the best Test match player. I think he's only failed once in that period, one single-figure score."

Pakistan legend Wasim Akram believes Babar's mentality has also been crucial in his improvements in Test cricket over the past two years.

"He has improved leaps and bounds as a batsmen and as a person too," Akram told Sky Sports.

"He is a very confident young boy but he is never satisfied with his performance. That is a sign of a great player in any sport and this guy is on the right track."

Watch day two of the first Test between England and Pakistan, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Thursday.

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