Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting was effusive in praise for the Pakistani duo of speedster Shaheen Afridi and skipper Babar Azam.
Afridi was recently named the Sir Garfield Sobers’ Trophy winner for ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year while Azam won the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year award. Azam is the top-ranked ICC ODI and T20I batter while Shaheen is the fifth-ranked Test bowler.
The left-arm pacer was the highest wicket-taker in 2021 across formats, with 78 wickets in 36 matches at an average of just 22.20. Afridi played the key role in Pakistan’s first-ever World Cup triumph over India – at the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, as he dismissed Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in the powerplay before accounting for Virat Kohli’s wicket in the death overs.
Speaking about Shaheen Afridi, Ricky Ponting remembered the youngster’s tour to Australia in 2019 when, although he picked just five wickets across two Tests, he left an impression on Ponting who was in the commentary box and who hailed him as a “complete package”.
“In all honesty, absolutely very well deserved. He had a really good tour to Australia a couple of summers ago and you could see then – he’s tall, obviously bowls fast, he had the ability to swing the new ball back into the right-handers as well … it looked like a really complete package that we hadn’t quite seen the best of yet,” Ponting said in the first episode of The ICC Review alongside Isa Guha.
About Pakistan captain Babar Azam, Ponting lauded Babar for his sensational form in white-ball cricket over the past five years rising to the summit in both limited-overs formats.
“He (Babar) has been great in T20I cricket in the past as well, hasn’t he? His white-ball cricket has been nothing short of breathtakingly good for the last four-five years,” said Ponting.
Ponting, a 2-time World Cup-winning captain, believes that Babar will soon be in the top-ranked batters in the world in Test cricket too; he currently is 9th ranked.
“He’s probably challenging for that position right now and probably if he had played a few more Test matches through the last couple of years he’d be knocking the door down for that. He’s a beautiful player, simple as that,” Ponting extolled Babar Azam for his batsmanship.
Australia are set to tour Pakistan for the first time in 24 years in March for 3 Tests, 3 ODIs, and a one-off T20I.