Babar Azam – The Tragic Hero?

Today, new writer Kaukab Abid brings us a different perspective on the World T20 final. No player will be under greater scrutiny, not to mention pressure to perform, than Pakistan’s superstar captain…

The term ‘tragic hero’ has been used throughout history to describe a variety of characters. A tragic hero is typically a person of high status who falls from grace due to a tragic flaw. This flaw can be anything from hubris to greed to lust. The fall from grace often leads to the protagonist’s downfall, and sometimes even death. In many cases, the tragic hero’s actions are not entirely his own fault, but rather the result of bad luck or outside forces beyond his control. Nevertheless, the tragic hero ultimately bears responsibility for his own fate.

Shakespeare’s tragic heroes are some of the most famous examples of this type of character. Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear are all prime examples of tragic heroes who meet their demise as a result of their own flaws.

So, what makes Babar a tragic hero? Is it simply his captaincy? Is it his heroic batting? Or is it something more complex, like a combination of all of these things?

Babar is arguably the best batsman that has ever played for Pakistan. In the last two years, he has consistently been among the top-ranked batsmen across formats. Babar was also the top scorer in the last year’s T20 world cup. Despite consistent low scores in the group matches in this World Cup, there was never any doubt that he will soon find his form.

As a captain, Babar is a work in progress. In crucial situations, he seems to misread the game and the team has paid a heavy price for it on more occasions than one. Not using Nawaz in the Asia Cup final, and giving Nawaz the final over against India are two prime examples of blunders that cost Pakistan key games. He is yet to win a major tournament as a captain. The pressure is mounting on him and that is directly impacting his batting form, which Pakistan can ill afford.

However, his tragic flaw is not that he is an inept captain but it is his static mindset as a leader that has caused his downfall. This is why he has been making the same mistakes again and again. Everyone could see that Asif Ali, Khusdil Shah, and Haider Ali were a burden on the team, yet Babar kept on persisting with them. Consequently, Mohammad Haris got only a single game before he was eventually plugged into the side when it was in a desperate situation.

Babar Azam has been an outstanding batsman, but we can’t say the same about his captaincy. For Babar, a lot rides on this final. There have already been talks of Shadab replacing him as a captain after the World Cup. It might be good for Babar as a batsman, as it will free him up of many other responsibilities that come along with being a captain. With Rohit Sharma taking the captaincy responsibilities for India, Virat Kohli seems to enjoy his batting more.

This could all change if Pakistan wins.

This could possibly be the last chance for Babar, as a captain, to lead his side to world cup glory. However, he needs to change his approach and become a little more flexible in his thinking.

With some introspection, he can surely overcome his tragic flaw. All of Pakistan will be hoping that Babar Azam does not meet the same fate as a tragic hero i.e. suffering (loss in the final) or an untimely ending (to his captaincy).

There have been cricketers in the past, who have let the nation down because of their greed, jealousy, and arrogance; Babar has served the nation with honesty and integrity. Babar has already surpassed all expectations but this is one hurdle that he needs to get over to stake a claim to greatness.

Kaukab Abid


  • Lovely article. Thanks Kaukib.
    Can’t help thinking that you could have written the same one about Joe Root…

    • My thoughts exactly, John – a very close parallel except that Root’s batting didn’t suffer in the way that Babar’s has, especially at key moments – when Root’s back was really against the wall, fortunately for England, it was usually the wall that gave in !

      • Only in T20s, though–which is a format Root no longer plays at all. Babar’s test average is sevral runs higher as captain, and he has a superlative ODI record as captain.

    • Root was only captain because he was the only shoe-in player at the time, unless you went for a Brearley type selected primarily as captain.
      Considering he didn’t have a strong backroom either he didn’t do a bad job on the whole. He’s wouldn’t have been my choice but there was no obvious other.

    • It’s truer to say, I think, that Root became captain because he’d been groomed for the role, like Cook before him, virtually since he came into the side–apparently on the basis of some rather nebulous ideas about breeding and class as much as anything else. It certainly wasn’t because he was a good captain–as I suspect some of the Yorkshire fans who saw him captain his county to an impossible defeat the previous season might have pointed out!

      He certainly wasn’t the only shoo-in in the test side: Ali, Stokes, Bairstow, Anderson and Broad all were at that point. That’s not to say that they were all captaincy material, especially at that point–but it would have been interesting to see how England fared under Ali, in particular, as captain.

      I also think that where there is no obvious other it’s almost always a failure of planning and/or the culture of the team. Simply put, there always should be! Or sometimes there is if the relevant people take off their blinkers and allow it to be obvious!

  • It’s the lack of expertise in the back room that doesn’t help Barbar. They don’t seem to be able to formulate a policy and don’t have a strong and successful individual to provide direction. England have had Morgan and now McCullum, both of whom seem to have consistently energised the team. It’s obviously easier to implement direction with success but when the chips are down and the pressure’s on who would you fancy to come out on top? How many would confidently say Pakistan? Of course this doesn’t mean an England win, but the groundwork points to it.

  • Very good article and watching the final against England validates a lot of Kaukab’s points. In contrast, Josh Buttler has grown both as a player and a captain as the competition has progressed. Buttler deserves a lot of credit, but England also have a very good backroom team and they have continued to build on the legacy of Eoin Morgan.

  • There were a lot of comparisons between this T20 WC Final and the 1991 WC Final. In the latter, Pakistan had three all-time greats in the team – Imran, Javed and Wasim. They had a fourth, Waqar, out injured. Babar’s tragedy is that he doesn’t have much of a team around him.

    BTW William Shakespeare (or however it’s spelt) didn’t write “Shakespeare”. Bacon, Oxford or Marlowe are more plausible candidates for the works although I suspect they came from an ‘invisible college’ of Rosicrucians (Shake-speare is a reference to Pallas Athena, one of their sacred goddesses). Those who’ve rejected Shakespeare as author include Henry James (who called it the greatest fraud in literature), Walt Whitman, Charlie Chaplin, Sigmund Freud, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Irons and Mark Rylance. Consider, for example, of the 20.000+ different words that appear in Shakespeare’s works (the average vocabulory is 3k and John Milton’s was 8k), the word ‘Stratford’ isn’t one of them – but Bacon’s home city of St Albans appears over a dozen times.

    • Interesting, if vastly over-simplified, point about Shakespeare….but in what way is it relevant to an article on Babar Azam, where the only only reference to Shakespeare was a rather throwaway, generalised one? I’m struggling to see the point.

    • Actors like Larry Olivier had done a huge amount of research into Shakespearean conspiracy theories and came up with nothing concrete to point to other authors using his name as a front. It’s certainly not impossible he was a plaguerist, as their are certain coincidences in his plot lines and characters with contemporaries, but this was common practice. We tend to think of Shakespeare as intellectual but it is only his different use of language that makes him difficult for today’s English users. His plays were initially performed to the general public of the day, who were supremely uneducated. It’s only subsequent adoption of his work by scholars that created his somewhat elitist reputation. In his time history plays were a common form of public entertainment as most could neither read or write.


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