Saim, Azam remain upbeat despite struggles – Sport

LAHORE: Saim Ayub and Azam Khan have been box office in franchise Twenty20 leagues over the past two years, but both big-hitters have failed to translate their potential on the international stage.

They will be on the plane to Dublin along with the Pakistan squad for a three-match T20I series against Ireland and the following four-game tour to England. But it is yet to be decided if Azam and Saim will catch the flight to Dallas, where Pakistan open their T20 World Cup campaign against co-hosts United States.

Saim, after emerging as one of the hottest T20 batting prospects in the country with his fireworks in the Pakistan Super League last year, has gone on to play 17 T20Is for the national side, and averages only 14.60 — a poor record for an opener in the shortest format.

The southpaw, however, doesn’t want to give up on his natural, ultra-aggressive approach.

“I’ve been selected in the team because of my natural game, I won’t leave it, no matter what happens,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the second day of Pakistan’s three-day preparatory camp for the Ireland and England series.

For Saim, what matters more is consistency in his process.

“Pressure is always there, even if one plays a 100 matches, he feels pressure,” said the 21-year-old. “Handling it is a different thing and I am adding that to my process and improving.

“There is always room for improvement, whether you’re failing or succeeding. I try to keep up with my process and not think too much about the result because results always depend on the process, which is what I am focusing on.”

Azam, meanwhile, plays at a positions where it is way harder to score runs consistently. His match-finishing acts batting in the lower middle-order in the PSL have earned him a number of calls to the national camp, but he has never been given a regular run of opportunities.

He may have got that during Pakistan’s recently-concluded five-match T20 series against New Zealand, but the burly batter tore his calf ahead of the series.

The Ireland and England games, however, could be make or break for the 25-year-old, but for him as well, just like Saim, it has always been about the process.

“A player always wishes to perform, no one’s a robot, no one has buttons, it’s all about the process and believing in it,” he said. “I have firm belief that if I keep following that process, it will bear fruit.

If he manages to shine in the British Isles, Azam may well make the playing XI in Pakistan’s T20 World Cup blockbuster against India on June 9. While the Karachi-born pinch-hitter recognises the importance of the fixture, he doesn’t want to overplay it in his head.

“The match against India is a big one, but it’s the World Cup, and it is not won by winning one match,” he noted. “The better thing would be to be fully-prepared to play against all teams.

“Obviously, we’ll go match by match but in a World Cup you’ve to dominate against all teams.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Mohsin Naqvi also held a detailed meeting with the national team players and he announced a cash prize of $100,000 for each player if they lift the World Cup.

The camp concludes on Monday and the Pakistan team will leave for Ireland on May 7 to play three T20I matches starting from May 10.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2024

Leave a Comment