Former Pakistan batting great Mohammad Yousuf has identified Babar Azam’s balance as one of the main reasons for his success at international level.
Babar, currently ranked No. 1 batsman in T20Is, has earned significant credentials in red-ball cricket with four centuries in his last five Tests. Before the start of Australia tour last year, Babar had only one Test hundred to his name against New Zealand (127*) in Dubai. Once the Australia tour started, he seemed to be a different batsman all together.
He scored an eye-catching 157 against Australia A in a pink-ball game in Perth – the footage of which is still shared on social media with special focus on the ball making a crisp sound off his bat. In the two Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide, he scored 104 and 97 respectively before smashing two Test hundreds against Sri Lanka and one against Bangladesh.
Yousuf, himself a veteran of 90 Tests, speaking to the cricketers in an online video session during the coronavirus pandemic, narrowed down Babar’s success to his balance at the crease, something which makes him stand apart from other batsmen.
Classic example of being in total control
In the images above, keep an eye on how there are no exaggerated movements from Babar, his head stays in line right throughout the shot and nods into contact (third frame). That’s something what is called precision or control in movements – giving himself the best possible chance to hit the ball. His forward press (or step) is bang on the right time and the weight is then transferred at impact (playing late), which makes the ball race away to the fence. Keep an eye on his bat – which goes out to second slip in second frame and then loops back to show the full face to the ball. The end result is a perfect on-drive.
Yousuf also went on to mention his struggles at international cricket, especially with his footwork at the crease. He credited former Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer for encouraging him to be positive in his movements at the crease, which then paid huge dividends for Yousuf in his long international career. “When Bob Woolmer worked on my footwork, I went on to become one of the best batsmen of my era,” he said.
Responding to a question from Pakistan Test captain, Azhar Ali, Yousuf said discipline was the key in batsmanship and added that batters should look to be positive and not get bogged down. He then went on to mention the importance of strike rotation across all formats to transfer the pressure back on the bowlers, something which Pakistan batsmen have been criticized for on a lot of instances.
According to Yousuf, supreme fitness levels were required these days to excel across all formats of the game and the current lockdown presented a perfect opportunity for the players to work on this aspect. “Batsmen need to be mentally strong to make the scoreboard move; they also need to be physically fit,” he insisted.
Batsmen these days have to be adaptable as the formats are switched on a regular basis. In red-ball cricket, batters have to leave the ball a lot more and be a bit tighter in their stroke play, whereas in T20s, they have to turn those good length balls into scoring opportunities. However, Yousuf feels the techniques don’t need to be changed in all three formats as he cited the examples of two former Pakistan greats – Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq – who went onto score tons of runs across all formats.