Azam Khan has been in the media glare in the past couple of years, with his place in Pakistan’s T20I setup being questioned incessantly. In recent times, though, he has proven why he deserves to be a part of the national side.
Back in July 2021, there was huge uproar when Azam was selected in Pakistan’s T20I squad to face England and the West Indies. At that juncture, Azam had only begun making waves in the shortest format. He was also looked upon as someone who had plenty of rough edges to smoothen out.
Quite a few were quick to join the dots and suggest that Azam was included because of his uncle Nadeem Khan, who was Pakistan’s Director of High Performance, and father, Moin Khan, the legendary Pakistan wicketkeeper. With a relatively middling record and only a few glimpses of brilliance to show for his talent, the rumours quickly gained popularity.
Now, though, it seems that that accusation was perhaps as far-fetched as any in recent memory, not just because the right-handed batter has begun justifying his immense potential, but also because he has the numbers to compete against the best in the country.
Azam has been excellent since the start of 2021
Since the start of 2021, Azam has been in stupendous form in T20 cricket. His belligerent brand of batting has meant that he hasn’t always been consistent. Yet, his ability to tear bowling units to shreds makes him stand out, especially since Pakistan’s T20I batting line-up has a plethora of anchor-style batters.
In the last two seasons of the Pakistan Super League, he has struck at a rate of 138.64. He is a murderer of spin bowling too – something that allows him to control the middle overs. Since 2021, his strike rate in the Pakistan Super League against spin is 154.38. Throughout his T20 career too, he has thrown caution to the wind against spin bowling and has struck at 150.
The middle-order batter had been less effective against fast bowling early on in his T20 career. But during his recent upturn, he seems to have devised a formula to get on top of them as well. His overall T20 strike rate against pace hovers around 132 (132.58). In the PSL, his career strike rate against fast bowling is 128.2. Since 2021, that has shot up to 130.66.
Azam has plenty of doubters to silence
A quick glance at Azam is usually followed by a lot of skepticism, especially considering that he isn’t one of the fittest cricketers going around. With the bat, though, he ensures that all of that is forgotten. He still has a proclivity to lose shape and have agricultural hacks. With time, he has mitigated those risks and has shown an ability to learn – an invaluable asset for a 23-year-old batter wanting to emerge from the shadow of his illustrious father and longing to carve his own niche.
Even in the 2022 iteration of the PSL, Azam played a few knocks that left those watching spellbound. That was inevitably followed by a string of low scores, which is unavoidable for someone who bats like him. Yet, there was enough on show for his detractors to turn around and praise him.
Back in 2021, Pakistan were willing to take that punt, despite the right-handed batter being a relative greenhorn. Now, with a greater repertoire of strokes and increased maturity, backing him in the T20I team seems a gamble worth taking.