Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s 41-month reign at the summit of the ICC ODI rankings came to an end as the 26-year-old Pakistan captain Babar Azam climbed the summit on April 14. Azam scored a total of 228 runs in the recently concluded bilateral series against South Africa, including a hundred and a match-winning 82-ball 94, which helped him outnumber Kohli’s rating points in the latest update. 

Comparisons between the two are rife in headed social media debates, despite the six-year age gap. Pak fans argue that the torch might finally be passing on to the next generation of potential ODI greats, but their Indian counterparts believe that Kohli’s achievements, both with the tea and individually, are far greater. 

A fair metric to evaluate this rivalry though, would be to compare Azam’s performances to Kohli’s at the same point in his ODI career. The former has now played 80 matches in the 50-over format for his national side. 

In the process, he has amassed 3,808 runs at an average of 56.83, including an incredible conversion rate of 13 hundreds and 17 half-centuries, according to HowStat. In 2019, he became the fastest Pakistani batsman to reach 3,000 ODI runs and the third-fastest overall.

On the other hand, Virat Kohli had played his 80th ODI game against Sri Lanka in Brisbane, in 2012. The match was part of the highly-entertaining triangular series Down Under, which saw a tied ODI between India and Lanka; and also the one at Hobart, where a belligerent Kohli led a successful Indian chase of 321 within 37 overs. 

Kohli (66) brought up his 20th fifty in that 80th game, taking his overall ODI run-tally to 3,079, at an average of almost 46. Till that point, he had only scored eight hundreds. 

But seven out of these eight tons had, remarkably, come in winning causes, according to ESPN Cricinfo Statsguru. Although Babar has scored two more hundreds in successful outings, only 70 percent of his 100s have reflected in favourable results. 

It’s worth pointing out that Virat Kohli amassed more than 3,500 runs in his next 80 matches, that included an extraordinary 13 hundreds out of 26 50-plus scores. In this period, his average jumped up by more than four runs per innings, to 50.66. 

This upward trajectory continues to grow even till today. In the years to come, Kohli went on to break many records held by the ODI legend Sir Viv Richards, and looks like the strongest contender to draw near master blaster Sachin Tendulkar’s numbers. Kohli has scored 43 ODI hundreds so far, and his average in the format continues to hover around the 60 runs/innings-mark.

Consistency, high fitness levels and discipline have accounted for Kohli’s on-field success over the years. Azam seems to be ticking the consistency and fitness boxes, at least. He averages close to 45 in a budding Test match career, while his average of 49-plus is not second to many in T20Is as well. Like Kohli, he is also the captain of his country’s team across all formats.

At the age of 26 right now, Azam still has a long way to go in emulating the likes of his predecessor atop the ODI rankings. But he certainly has a host of gifted active batsman to look up to. And he hasn’t made a particularly bad start to his career either.