Shahid Afridi has said that he would not let Azam Khan near the Pakistan team based on where Afridi perceives Khan’s fitness to be at.

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Pakistan are currently in England playing a four-game T20I series ahead of the 2024 men’s T20 World Cup in North America. After a washout in the first game in Leeds, Pakistan lost the second at Edgbaston by 23 runs, chasing a target of 184. Azam Khan, batting at No.6, made 11 off 10 balls.

Azam has been picked for the T20 World Cup after having a decent PSL 2024 where he scored 226 runs at a strike rate of 171.21. However, his T20I exploits so far haven’t been great. From 12 T20Is and 11 innings with the bat, Azam has made only 88 runs at an average of 11 and a strike rate of 146, with a high score of 30.

To add to his performances with the bat, there have always been concerns about his fitness, an issue which has risen again. Shahid Afridi, a former T20 World Cup winner for Pakistan, spoke about how Azam’s fitness levels are unacceptable and that he wouldn’t have him in the Pakistan team.

Speaking on a Pakistani news channel, Afridi said: “Fitness is the main thing. If you are fit, your body language gives it away on the ground, be it while batting, bowling, or fielding. You can’t compromise on fitness.

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“I would never let Azam Khan get anywhere near the team as far as fitness is concerned. I praise him too, he’s strong and well built, he hits well. He has played good knocks in the West Indies.”

Afridi elaborated how keeping wickets in the West Indies will be a challenge for Azam: “In England, the ball carries behind the stumps (while keeping). But when they’ll go to the West Indies, the ball won’t carry as much there, it will keep low.

“I hope he doesn’t struggle, but I am worried about his keeping against spinners in West Indian conditions with this fitness, because the ball stays low there and you have to keep your body low as well.”

The former leg-spinner then clarified that he didn’t want to demotivate anyone ahead of the World Cup and that discussions and criticisms can happen after the tournament.

“As a senior, my wish is to support every player as the team is going for the World Cup. After the World Cup we can discuss and criticise. But for now, I only want to support the boys and want to make sure that they don’t get any such message where they feel, ‘We are going for the World Cup and this is what Shahid bhai is talking about.'”