Root has been ruling the roost at the top of the Test rankings since June, with the Englishman enjoying a fine World Test Championship, and in a rich vein of form under new coach Brendon McCullum.
The former England captain has scored more runs than any other player since the turn of the decade, and deservedly claimed the ICC Men’s Test Player of the Year award in 2021.
“Tough one!” Jayawardene said on the latest episode of The ICC Review, when asked who can dethrone Root from the top spot.
“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.”
Babar is the only player in the top three in the batters’ rankings in all three formats, occupying the top spot in each of the white-ball formats and currently ranked No.3 in Tests.
“T20Is and ODIs, it is tough one to hold on to because there are a lot of good players who have to be consistent,” Jayawardene said.
“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.”
Asked what makes Babar such a special player, Jayawardene said he was most impressed by the amount of time the Pakistan skipper has while at the crease.
“(I) think it is just the technique, the time that he has and the composure that he has out there in the middle,” the former Sri Lanka captain said.
“He’s not rattled at any time, whether he plays T20Is, ODIs or Tests, he adjusts quite brilliantly.
“Joe (Root) in Test cricket is the same. He knows what he needs to do, he can the tempo when he wants to, bats to what the conditions offer. Babar has that same quality, so that’s why he’s been so consistent in all three formats.”
The two star cricketers will come face to face later this year when England tour Pakistan for a three-match Test series in December.
Root could further solidify his No.1 spot in the upcoming series against South Africa, while Babar will have to wait until the series against England later in the year to make a charge for the top.