Former Pakistan all-rounder and head coach of Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchises Islamabad United, Azhar Mahmood recently expressed his desire to see a “more fit and more agile” Azam Khan.
Despite the praise he has garnered in the recently-concluded PSL, Azam has come under increasing criticism for being “unfit”.
The wicketkeeper faced criticism for fluffing chances behind the stumps and had an unsatisfactory performance in the two innings of the recently-concluded three-match T20I series against Afghanistan in Sharjah — scoring only one run.
“He [Azam] is a phenomenal cricketer. When he is playing well, he is a wonderful striker of the cricket ball but he needs to work on his fitness and he realises that himself,” Mahmood said.
“He is a young kid and when you are playing franchise cricket, it’s up to him how he wants to evolve as a person or as a player. As a coach I would like to see him more fit and more agile and that’s the conversation we had with him and he is very keen to work on his fitness,” he added.
Earlier, Pakistan chief selector Haroon Rasheed also opened up about the exclusion of Azam from the T20I squad for the upcoming series against New Zealand.
“Azam Khan did not perform well in the series against Afghanistan, but mistakes happen. However, the door is open for his return if he works on his issues and improves. Many cricketers in the world have been dropped and made a comeback and played cricket for a long time,” Rasheed said.
“Currently, we have Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Haris as wicketkeeper-batters, and Azam Khan is in the pipeline,” he added.
It must be noted that the Pakistan team is currently preparing for the limited-overs series against New Zealand on home soil.
The Black Caps’ tour of Pakistan will include five ODIs and as many T20I matches.
The Pakistan players will also attend a four-day camp from April 7 in Lahore in order to fine tune their preparations for the series.
T20I: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood and Zaman Khan
ODI: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Haris Sohail, Ihsanullah, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Salman Ali Agha, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood and Usama Mir
14 Apr – 1st T20I, Lahore
15 Apr – 2nd T20I, Lahore
17 Apr – 3rd T20I, Lahore
20 Apr – 4th T20I, Rawalpindi
24 Apr – 5th T20I, Rawalpindi
27 Apr – 1st ODI, Rawalpindi
29 Apr – 2nd ODI, Rawalpindi
3 May – 3rd ODI, Karachi
5 May – 4th ODI, Karachi
7 May – 5th ODI, Karachi
The T20Is will begin at 9pm; whereas, ODIs will begin at 3:30pm.