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Azam Khan and the joy of hitting sixes

Azam Khan and the joy of hitting sixes
Azam Khan and the joy of hitting sixes
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The old cricket adage ‘when he hits, it stays hit!’ sums up the enormous power in Azam Khan’s big hits. The right-hander has smashed bowlers all around the dial in the ongoing National T20 Cup for First XIs for Sindh.

His batting prowess is one of the reasons of Sindh’s resurgence and a berth in the semi-final after an ordinary Multan-leg, in which they won only one of their four matches.

Azam struck a whirlwind 88 off 43 balls against the highflying Northern outfit as Sindh posted an imposing 221 for four and eventually registered a 25-run win that earned them a semi-final spot in the 25th match of the tournament played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the tournament, he hit a blazing 55 (five sixes and four fours) against Northern albeit in a losing cause.

He has hit the ball 19 times beyond the boundary ropes in the National T20 Cup, the most for any batsman in the tournament to date, with some of the shots landing well into the stands.

Azam developed his six-hitting habit from an early age while playing tape-ball cricket on the streets of Karachi. Born in a family of Test cricketers – with Moin Khan as his father and Nadeem Khan as uncle – Azam had cricket in his blood.

In one T20 innings at the Moin Khan Academy, named after his father who captained Pakistan and represented the country in 69 Tests and 219 ODIs, Azam hit a staggering 29 sixes.

“I have a vivid memory of that match, it was played in January 2016,” Azam told pcb.com.pk. “I was representing Moin Khan Academy team and our opponents were a team called Karachi Hawks. I scored 265 runs in the 20-over match. I hit 29 sixes and 12 fours. That innings gave me the confidence that I can do something in the game and the people who saw the innings spread the word about the game and the innings in Karachi cricketing circles.”

“My first cricket memory was playing cricket at the age of four or five. When the Moin Khan Academy was established, I started playing there.

“I feel very proud that my father has such a big name in Pakistan cricket and that my uncle was too a Test cricketer. We talk a lot about cricket and have quality discussions at home, which are a big opportunity to learn about the game at a young age.

“My dad and I watch a lot of old Pakistan matches together and discuss the details of the game and have some very healthy conversations which I thoroughly enjoy.”

“Tape-ball cricket helped me develop big-hitting; I started playing cricket at a semi-professional to professional level at a young age which further enhanced my batting skills. I really enjoy practicing big-hits during nets and range-hitting sessions and I really back my ability of clearing the boundary which brings me a lot of joy.”

Azam who can also keep wickets remained part of the Quetta Gladiators side in the last seasons. This year’s edition, the homecoming of HBL Pakistan Super League, turned Azam’s fortunes as he won his side two matches at the National Stadium Karachi (against Islamabad United and Karachi Kings). His performances earned him the recognition of fans while the critics who had questioned his fitness and attitude to the game were also left amazed by his talent.

“My ambition is to work even harder now and especially on my fitness. I fully realise that I was overweight last year but I have reduced more than 30kgs. I still have a long way to go and I know I have to keep myself grounded if I have to achieve sustained success while further improving my batting skills.

“The year 2020 has been a great one for me despite the Covid-19 situation that held all of us back for a considerable time period. I am very happy that I made most of the opportunities provided to me by Quetta Gladiators and now this National T20 has been a wonderful experience that I am thoroughly enjoying.”

“The seniors in the Sindh team like Khurram Manzoor, Sharjeel Khan, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Anwar Ali have supported me wholeheartedly and I am really enjoying their company and learning so much by both sharing the dressing room with them and taking the field.

The 22-year-old is also hoping to don the Pakistan colours like his father and uncle. He fully appreciates the support he has from his father and another ambition of his is to make him very proud.

“My dad has supported me throughout, I feel indebted to him and at the same time it is such a wonderful feeling to be backed by a legend of the game. Being a great of the game, he really understands everything and is very rarely fully satisfied with my performances, as he always wants me to strive harder and harder. I really want to make him happy and proud of my performances and that matters everything to me.”