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Sunday, April 14, 2024

BBC presenter questions Pakistan Cricket for undermining players

A BBC presenter has mused over a story which he says “undermines” Pakistan’s cricketers and fosters insecurity.

Aatif Nawaz who commentates on cricket including on BBC Radio’s flagship Test Match Special broadcast, questioned the source of a story that says Pakistan batsman and wicketkeeper Azam Khan failed a fitness test.

The article published on cricketpakistan.com says Khan could not complete a two kilometre run and managed just 1.5 kilometre in 20 minutes.

Khan’s fitness struggles are hardly headline news given his notoriously large frame yet his efforts at dealing with excess weight has delivered results in the past. In 2021 Azam was reported to have lost 30 kilograms and saw a marked improvement in performance.

In the 2022 Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament he finished tenth on the run-scorers’ list and  made his international debut, as well as being snapped up by Barbados Royals in the Caribbean Premier League.

However Azam was named in the Pakistan squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup, and then replaced by Sarfaraz Ahmed at the last minute because of what he was told were “certain performance criteria”, which many have said was due to fitness issues. His domestic heroics have yet to translate onto the international scene with just 29 runs in 8 matches so far.

In the past Khan has retorted against criticism and discussion of his fitness saying; “It’s not about being overweight. It’s about performance. If a guy is scoring 400 runs and he is super-fit and another guy is scoring 800 runs and he is not super-fit, I will keep the guy who scored 800 runs in my team. That’s my point of view.”

Nawaz questioned the PCB approach saying “If they planned to publicly humiliate a player, why select him for the camp in the first place? It feels like they’re  simply playing a PR game to absolve themselves of any accountability and manipulating public opinion to endorse their choices.”

Saj Sadiq of the Pak-Passion blog which is dedicated to all things Pakistan cricket, said, “If you cannot complete a 2km run, you have no place in international cricket.”

Ex Yorkshire cricketer, Azeem Rafiq believes that Khan deserves backing and a plan to improve saying, “Once you have made the decision to select him regardless of his fitness ( which I wouldn’t have done) – all you can now ask of him is a plan to improve.”

It’s not the first time Pakistani players have been hung out to dry with details of misdemeanours as well as personal issues given to the media. In 2009 the PCB revealed that superstar bowler Shoaib Akhtar was suffering from genital viral warts and would miss that years Twenty20 World Cup tournament, which the Green Team would go onto win. Akhtar revealed that he considered suing the PCB for revealing his personal issue.

Azam Khan is the son of former Pakistani cricketer Moin Khan, who was the wicketkeeper for the national team in two ODI cricket World Cups, including the famous 1992 triumph under Imran Khan.

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