ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s all-format cricket captain Babar Azam, who recently became the fastest batter to reach 5,000 One-Day International (ODI) runs, said on Saturday that the three consecutive centuries he scored in the UAE against the West Indies in 2016 “turned around” his career, boosting his confidence.
Azam became the third Pakistani player, and the eighth overall, to score three consecutive ODI centuries in 2016 against the West Indies. He scored 120, 123, and 117 runs from the first, second, and third ODIs respectively to bag the Player of the Series award.
Friday was also a special day for Azam, who smashed yet another century against New Zealand to help Pakistan climb atop the ODI rankings for the first time, registering a 102-run victory over the Black Caps in Karachi.
Azam’s century also meant he surpassed the likes of iconic batters Hashim Amla and Virat Kohli to become the fastest batter to reach 5,000 ODI runs in just 97 innings.
Amla, considered one of the best ODI batters of all time, took 101 innings to achieve the same feat.
Ahead of his 100th ODI match, Azam reflected upon his journey in the sport and recalled how the 2016 series in the UAE transformed his skills.
“Babar said it was his three consecutive centuries in the United Arab Emirates against the West Indies that turned around his career and gave him confidence,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement on Saturday.
He said though his start to international cricket was an impressive one as he scored five half-centuries in the first 15 ODIs, he was unable to convert those starts into big scores.
Azam added that the presence of Mickey Arthur, the then head coach and now team director, helped him evolve into a reliable stroke-maker.
“I want to mention Mickey as he played an integral role in my transformation. As a cricketer, there’s a feeling that if you are not up to the mark, you might get dropped from the side, but he gave me confidence,” the Pakistani captain said.
He added that Arthur asked him to give his best performance and “not worry about getting axed from the side,” adding that it helped the batter a great deal.
“He did not only do it with me but with every player in the side and that is why we have eight to nine players in the side currently from that lot,” Azam said.
During his interview with the PCB, Azam also mentioned that the road to becoming an international cricketer is full of sacrifices. The Pakistan captain shared how at the poignant moments in his life, he was away from his family and how their support helped him reach the level where he is currently.
“My mother bought me my first-ever cricket bat and gear, and I used that bat for a good two to three years. My dad has been a great influence in my life,” Azam said.
“He tells me never to be complacent and that keeps me hungry and focused. My brothers always lend me support in tough times.”