Pakistan's Babar Azam and other young batsmen who could be the next Virat Kohli of international cricket

Ashish Peter 27/02/2018
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Azam is the front-runner to Kohli's crown amongst the current crop.

That Virat Kohli is a once-in-a-generation batsman is an understatement. The India batting sensation has redefined run-scoring, often setting a new record with every passing series.

His rise from a chubby under-19 World Cup-winning captain to the athletic beast he is now has been accompanied by his transformation into a complete monster batting-wise, so much so, that he is now poised to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 100 international tons by the time he calls time on his career.

Here, we take a look at four other batsmen aged 25 and below, who have the potential to be the next ‘Kohli’ of international cricket.

BABAR AZAM

The most obvious choice. The Pakistan batsman has racked up staggering numbers already at an early stage of his international career. Still only 23, Babar Azam has seven ODI tons in 40 innings so far.

Averaging 51.1 in ODI cricket already and almost 50 in the T20I format as well, Babar is certain to be the flag-bearer of Pakistan cricket for the next decade or so. What’s even more astonishing about his record is that he hasn’t really enjoyed the luxury of playing in true ‘home’ conditions due to Pakistan having to play their matches in the UAE.

With international cricket making its way back slowly to Pakistan, expect the stylish right-handed batsman to develop even further.

Azam's free-flowing batting is a joy to watch.

Azam’s free-flowing batting is a joy to watch.

SHUBMAN GILL

The player of the tournament of the recently concluded ICC Under-19 World Cup, Shubman Gill’s pedigree as an 18-year-old is immense. He shot to fame even before his heroics in the Indian colts’ victory, making a half-century in his Ranji debut for Punjab. He then further cemented his promise in his next outing for Punjab, notching up his maiden first-class ton.

He averaged a whopping 124 in the World Cup win, and showed his class with a match-winning ton against arch-rivals Pakistan in the semi-finals. Armed with all the shots in the book, Gill is already being compared to his idol Kohli and could very well be the next big thing in Indian cricket.

Gill's technique has a striking resemblance to his idol Kohli.

Gill’s technique has a striking resemblance to his idol Kohli.

PRITHVI SHAW

The skipper of India’s Under-19 World Cup winning side, Prithvi Shaw was slightly overshadowed by Gill’s heroics in the tournament. But make no mistake, he has had an equally impressive start to his young career, if not better than his team-mate.

He shot to fame from minor cricket with a record-breaking innings of 546 in a Harris Shield match as a 14-year-old. Shaw broke Tendulkar’s record by becoming the youngest player to score a ton in the Duleep Trophy and then scored another on his first-class debut for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy semi-final win over Tamil Nadu.

His maturity for his age is outstanding and that ice cool temperament will see him go a long way in international cricket.

Shaw has already developed a huge reputation at his age.

Shaw has already developed a huge reputation at his age.

KUSAL MENDIS

The Sri Lankan youngster might not have had the best of times of late in international cricket but his meteoric rise can definitely not be denied. Having long been earmarked as a future superstar through his schoolboy days, Kusal Mendis has already shown brief glimpses that he what it takes to follow the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

His match-winning 178 in the Pallekele Test against Australia last year will live long in the memory of cricket fans in the island nation. Despite being highly inconsistent so far, Mendis has already racked up an ODI ton and 11 half-centuries in 42 innings. If he can develop some consistency over the next year or so, he could very well reach the heights he has been touted to breach.

Mendis has shown plenty of promise despite his inconsistency.

Mendis has shown plenty of promise despite his inconsistency.

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South Africa's Morne Morkel to retire from international cricket after Australia Test series

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South Africa fast bowler Morne Morkel has announced that the upcoming four-Test series against Australia at home will be his last.

The 33-year-old has featured in 83 Tests for South Africa and claimed 294 wickets at an average of 28.08.

The tall right-arm bowler has been a key part of the Proteas pace attack over the last few years – that includes – Dale Steyn, who has been in and out of the side due to injury, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, and Lungi Ngidi lately.

Morkel is expected to be named in the hosts’ team for the first Test against Australia, which begins on March 1 at Kingsmead, Durban.

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England's Mark Wood to undergo scans for ankle soreness

David Clough 26/02/2018
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Mark Wood is to have a scan on his troublesome left ankle after a return of soreness in the joint ruled him out of England’s first one-day international against New Zealand.

England captain Eoin Morgan said after Sunday’s three-wicket defeat against the Kiwis in Hamilton that he remains optimistic the latest problem with the fast bowler’s ankle will not prove serious.

It emerged on Monday, however, that Wood will have a precautionary scan to pinpoint the extent of the injury – with a further update anticipated in the next 24 hours.

The seamer, a surprise absentee at Seddon Park, has previously undergone three operations on his ankle – and was prevented from playing any part in England’s Ashes this winter as he struggled to regain full fitness.

The 28-year-old returned, however, for the white-ball legs of England’s tour and is also in the squad for next month’s two-Test series against New Zealand.

Assessing Wood’s likely availability for the remainder of a campaign which resumes with the second ODI at Mount Maunganui on Wednesday, Morgan said on Sunday evening: “It’s not a serious concern at the moment.
“He’s picked up a soreness the last couple of days and he wasn’t worth the risk today.

“We’ll see how he’s assessed over the next 24 hours to see whether he will participate in the next game or we build a plan as to when he can come back.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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