A tale of two titans: Virat Kohli v Babar Azam:
With the upcoming World Cup, there is always a strong interest in two players in 2 players in the Asian cricketing powerhouses- India and Pakistan.
Did you know that Virat Kohli is 4x more popular than Babar Azam worldwide?
The Babar Azam vs Virat Kohli debate, in fact, has been a hot topic ever since the Pakistan captain made his international debut in 2015. The reason was understandable as Babar had emulated a lot of the things that Kohli had managed during his U-19 days. Even though the U-19 world title eluded the Pakistan batter unlike Kohli, Babar looked destined for greatness.
By the time Babar played his first international match for Pakistan, Kohli had already appeared in more than 150 One-Day Internationals, hitting 20 plus tons. Fast forward to 2022, and it is Babar Azam who is now the fastest player to score 2,000 ODI runs as it only took him 47 matches to do so. On the contrary, it took Kohli 56 matches to reach the milestone. With that in mind, here’s a closer look at how the stats stack up when we compare two of cricket’s modern greats.
It’s interesting to note that their peaks in terms of popularity in the recent year happened during the Asia Cup and the surge for Virat Kohli’s popularity has been immense (almost a 5x surge) due to Kohli getting his form back in the Asia Cup tournament.
The T20 World Cup is starting in Australia now. Would these numbers change? Will we see a big surge in terms of their popularity? Let’s take a seat, grab some popcorn and see what happens! (In fact Cricket & Bollywood are considered to be among the top entertainment for Indians- so much so that, they are considered ‘religions’ themselves!- though Bollywood has been facing headwinds compared to cricket in recent times)
A game of form:
Cricket is always a game of form and no matter how legendary a player is, how many world records they have or have broken, their instantaneous form is of more relevance- at least when it comes to digital chatter. This is clearly evident from looking at the players’ popularity on a bigger time frame (5 years)
Though Kohli’s popularity seems to have waned over the last 5 years, the only time Babar Azam came close was during Oct 2021 (Babar Azam’s peak form during the 2021 World Cup) and Kohli’s peak came during December 2017, when Kohli broke multiple world records, score double centuries at ease, most runs in a calendar year, max. Wins as a skipper in a calendar year and positioned India as the formidable unit, it is now, in all 3 formats including Test Cricket.
The curious case of Jammu & Kashmir:
Interestingly though, in India, Kohli is 9x more popular than Azam, whereas Azam is 2x more popular in Pakistan (of course, given the home ground advantage!)
What’s more interesting is that though Kohli is 9x more popular in India, in Jammu & Kashmir, they are equally popular! Even in the the second top state where Babar Azam has a significant traction (Sikkim), Kohli is still 5x more popular- which signifies a heavy skewed nature of popularity in terms of Kohli v Azam!
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