Steve Smith and David Warner are set to play their first in Australia in over a year but it is Babar Azam that Ricky Ponting is most eager to see in action in the upcoming Test series between the two sides.
The Pakistan batting prodigy is ranked No1 and No3 respectively in the T20I and ODI formats, though that form is yet to come to the fore in Tests where he averages 35.28. It is the 25-year-old’s second tour of Australia in his career so far and he was able to average a mere 11 in the 2016-17 visit.
However, Ponting believes that performing in Test cricket is a case of when, and not if, for the Pakistan man.
“We haven’t seen the best of him yet,” the former Australia skipper told cricket.com.au in an interview.
“Twenty-odd Tests for an average of 35 – he’s better than that. He averages 54 in one-day cricket at a strike-rate of about 90.
“He’s a very, very classy player. He’s a really exciting talent and probably the guy I’m looking forward to seeing the most this summer.
“I’ve seen the Aussies a lot and I’ve seen a lot of the Kiwis, but I’m really excited to see him. He could be anything.”
With scores of 157 and 63 in Pakistan’s two warm-up clashes, Babar is already shaping up nicely for the two-Test series against Australia. A move down the order has worked in the right-hander’s favour who was batting as high as No3 for the most part of his early Test career.
Ponting feels shielding Babar from the new ball in Australia will be the key for Pakistan in unlocking his full potential.
“What they’ve tried with him before obviously hasn’t worked (because) when you watch him bat, he’s better than a 35 average,” he stated.
“If they can massage him and help him through a little bit, keep him away from the new ball a little bit here in Australia, then I think they’ll get the best out of him.”
The first Test between Australia and Pakistan begins at the Gabba in Brisbane on Thursday. The final Test will be a day-night affair at the Adelaide Oval and it gets underway on November 29.
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