Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq has on Saturday (July 24) defended the contentious selection of Azam Khan after the youngster failed to live up to the expectations on the recent tour of England.
After his selection in the Pakistan squad for the three-match T20I series in England, Azam was in the spotlight not just because of him being the legendary Moin Khan’s son, but also because of his ludicrous hitting ability. However, the right-hander failed to prove his reputation of being a middle-order dynamite, as he ended up just scoring 6 runs across three T20Is against England.
Following his disastrous display in England, Azam endured the wrath of fans and media, but Misbah defended the youngster and said it would be wrong to judge the 22-year-old on the basis of one or two innings. The coach feels Khan should be judged only when he plays more matches in the middle-order.
Misbah told ESPNCricinfo, “Azam only really had one innings, so it's very early to say anything about him. When he plays more, things will become clearer. Whichever player bats at that position needs to score quick runs. When you play at number six your average might not be very high, so you can't judge on one game.”
As the middle-order again failed to fire up across the three-match T20I series, Misbah admitted that Pakistan are still trying to resolve their middle-order woes, but said they are closer to finding their best XI for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup 2021 later this year.
The coach added, “We are close to finding out our final combination. We still have the same problems, that our middle order isn't performing the way our top order is. We know 8-9 players of our playing XI as well as their replacements. We have to view every game as important and improve our performance. England were a top team in difficult conditions, but we have to look at a roadmap for improvement. Of course, losses shatter your confidence, and we just have to try and build it back.”
Accepting Pakistan was outplayed by England, Misbah pointed out: “But it's true, we didn't bowl as well in England as we did in South Africa or at home. There have been some huge overs we've allowed which has had an impact on results. The results before the England series were much improved, we won 3 series in a row. [Mohammad] Hafeez has not been doing as well as he did last year, and other middle-order players are struggling.”
He concluded, “Overall, the team is better but if these two aspects of our game improve, then we'd be in a much better position. The importance of three-dimensional players and the lower middle order is very important. Players like Hasan Ali and Shadab (Khan) and their performances are crucial, but the link with the middle order needs to be stronger.”