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'This brings unwanted pressure' - Azam dismisses comparison with Kohli
The Azam-Kohli Debate

'This brings unwanted pressure' - Azam dismisses comparison with Kohli

Babar Azam's incessant rise in world cricket as Pakistan's premier all-format batsman has often landed him in comparison with India skipper Virat Kohli but the 25-year-old insists there is no room for such a discussion.

Azam was on top of his game during the second innings of the opening Test against Australia as he struck an elegant 104 though he failed to avert an innings loss for the tourists.

While addressing the media in the aftermath of his side's defeat, Azam was quick to point out the massive disparity in terms of the number of games he has played in comparison with Kohli when asked about his thoughts on the topic.

“I don’t think about this. I have always stated it is unfair to compare me with him [Kohli] because he has far greater experience than I do," he said.

"When I play more matches and gain experience, then maybe you can make the comparison but there is no need to do so currently."

Few questions have been raised over the dynamic shot-maker's limited-overs prowess but Azam's stop-start Test career has been a point of concern for many in Pakistan cricket.

He averages above 50 in both white-ball formats though this statistic drops to a middling 36.21 in Test cricket.

However, Azam's recent string of impressive outings in the conventional format signals an immensely positive change in his batting and he still requires oodles of consistency in his red-ball game to match Kohli, who averages 54.97 after 84 appearances.

Meanwhile, Azam refused to be drawn into a competition with his Indian counterpart and focused on the unnecessary pressure such a rivalry brings.

"I avoid thinking about this subject altogether because this brings unwanted pressure. I just stay in my zone and focus on my own cricket.”

Azam made his Test debut in 2016 and has been able to score only two centuries since then - the second of which he amassed on Sunday in Brisbane.

Although there is a dearth of marathon knocks from him in his relatively nascent Test career, Azam picked his latest ton as the better of his two hundred.

“You can say this is the best innings of my Test career so far. It is quite difficult to score runs in Australia. They are a very strong side in home conditions and bowl well."

"You gain a lot of confidence by performing against them, which I have got after making this hundred," he added.

'I regret the shot I played in the first innings'

Azam entered the Test series at the back of exceptional performances in the tour matches and the preceding T20I games.

His supreme run of form promised a masterclass in batting upfront but the right-hander met a rather anticlimactic end to his short stay at the crease on day one of the Gabba clash.

Azam launched an expansive drive on the fourth ball he faced managing to edge it to Joe Burns in the slips off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood.

Reflecting on his first-innings blunder, he claimed to have worked on curbing his natural instincts of driving the wider deliveries.

Also Read: 'I am still learning from my mistakes' - Babar Azam

“There was no pressure on me [in the first innings]. That is a shot I usually play but I played it too early after arriving at the crease, which I shouldn’t have. I regretted that specific stroke a lot."

"I then went back and practiced a lot on leaving balls pitched outside the off-stump. So I applied it to my second innings. I admit I took a needless risk early on in my first innings that I shouldn’t have," he elaborated.

One aspect of Azam's place in the Test side is the uncertainty surrounding his position in the batting order.

He batted at No. 5 during the first Test, though a promotion up the order might be on the cards for Adelaide's pink-ball encounter given Haris Sohail's troubles with the bat on this tour.

“When I started Test cricket, I had no particular number in the batting order since Younis and Misbah were still in the team. I would sometimes bat at five or six. When I came to Australia last time around, I batted at No. 3 and then moved to No. 4," Azam stated in response to a query regarding his fickle place in the line-up.

"It’s not that I was not given a number to bat at, I batted according to the team’s requirement and plan. I don’t have a personal preference and am willing to perform regardless of where I bat.”