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Thursday Aug 11 2022
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'Gifted' Babar Azam can dethrone Joe Root to become top Test batter: Mahela Jayawardena

Pakistans Babar Azam plays a shot during the final day of the second cricket Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on July 28, 2022 (left) and Cricket - First Test - England v India - Trent Bridge, Nottingham, Britain - August 7, 2021 Englands Joe Root reacts. — AFP/Reuters
Pakistan's Babar Azam plays a shot during the final day of the second cricket Test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Galle International Cricket Stadium in Galle on July 28, 2022 (left) and Cricket - First Test - England v India - Trent Bridge, Nottingham, Britain - August 7, 2021 England's Joe Root reacts. — AFP/Reuters

Sri Lanka's former captain Mahela Jayawardena has tipped Pakistan skipper Babar Azam as the batter who can dethrone England's Joe Root to become the top Test batter.

Root has been at the top of the ICC Test batter rankings since June and the former England captain is also enjoying a fine World Test Championship.

Root, who has hit more runs than any other player since the turn of the decade, was awarded the ICC Men's Test Player of the Year award in 2021 — showing that he is in excellent shape.

However, despite Root's exemplary form, Jayawardena, in response to a question during the latest episode of The ICC Review, said that Babar could dethrone him.

"Tough one!" Jayawardena said.

"I would say Babar Azam has an opportunity. He's been consistent in all three formats and it shows in his rankings. He's a naturally gifted player, plays in all conditions, he's got the game to adapt as well.

"It depends on the amount of cricket, who's playing when and how much but the Babar might be the guy."

No player has even been the top batter across all formats, however, Babar is currently in the top three of all formats. The skipper is placed at the top of ODI and T20I rankings and is placed third in Test rankings.

Jayawardena believes Babar can accomplish this feat.

"T20Is and ODIs, it is tough one to hold on to because there are a lot of good players who have to be consistent," Jayawardena said.

"As long as he can be that, because he has a very good role to play in that Pakistan setup – they have batters to bat around him, so he can play his own game – he should be able to hold on to that and at the same time, push himself to get better.

"He batted really well in Sri Lanka. I think Prabath (Jayasuriya) was his nemesis – he got him three times out of the four innings. That was a very good battle to watch. Babar got a really good hundred in the first Test match.

"He's always going to push himself to get better. Seen in a couple of his interviews recently that it is his goal as well to be No 1 across the table. There's no harm in challenging yourself to get there.

"Being the captain as well, he has taken responsibility and performed, which is great to see. (It's) Not an easy thing to do.

"I would put my money on him at least for a little while to hold to all three but there are some good quality players around who will keep pushing him."

The Englishman has the chance to solidify his number 1 spot in England's upcoming series against South Africa. However, Babar will have to wait until the series against England later in the year to make a charge for the top.