Pakistan batting coach Grant Flower believes that Babar Azam has got Virat Kohli’s “hunger” and the talent to match the Indian skipper’s feats at some point in the future. Babar played a match-winning knock of 101 not out off 127 balls against New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday to keep Pakistan’s hopes alive of reaching the semi-finals in the ongoing World Cup. “He’s (Babar) got Virat’s hunger. I think he could be at some point in the future. He’s definitely got that hunger, so if you practice as hard as he does, and you have his skills, I can’t see why he can’t get to the top,” Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) quoted Flower, as saying.
New Zealand set a target of 238 runs in Pakistan’s must-win match to stay alive in the tournament. Babar along with Haris Sohail stitched a 126-run fourth wicket partnership to place Pakistan in a comfortable position. The duo tackled the likes of pacers Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson, and spinner Mitchell Santner to take Pakistan over the line in 49.1 overs. “He’s (Babar) had flu over the last couple of days. Tuesday was the first time I’ve not seen him hit any balls the day before a match. Confidence-wise, this is definitely his best one (century),” Flower said.
“I’ve seen him get quite a few hundreds on pretty flat wickets, but this was a tough wicket – it was turning, Ferguson was bowling fast and there was a lot of pressure because of the context of the tournament,” he added. Pakistan batting coach further said that Babar can have a good cricketing career if he stays grounded. “He is very special. I believe he is going to be one of the best that Pakistan have ever produced. He’s really hungry, is fit and still very young. I think he’ll have a really good career if he keeps his feet on the ground, which I think he will,” Flower said.
With the win, Pakistan now sit in the sixth position in the World Cup standings with seven points from as many matches. The team, however, needs to win their next two matches — against Afghanistan and Bangladesh, respectively, to secure a place in the semi-finals. Pakistan have a point difference with the hosts of the tournament. England sit in the fourth position with eight points from seven matches. They are also trapped in two must-win matches — against India and New Zealand, respectively, to book a semi-finals spot.
“It’s quite exciting, I think. For the first part of the tournament, it didn’t seem like it was going to be, but now there’s pressure on some of the top teams. It’s good. It definitely puts us in a good position. It’s just our net run-rate, and obviously, those first few games didn’t help us,” Flower said.
Pakistan will next meet Afghanistan on June 29 at Leeds.