"Even a player like Virat Kohli gets criticized" - Misbah-ul-Haq calls on Azam Khan to improve mental strength amidst criticism

England v Pakistan - 4th Vitality IT20
Azam Khan has been in horrific batting form in international cricket

Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq called on wicket-keeper batter Azam Khan to improve his mental strength and remain focussed amidst the severe criticisms thrown his way for poor fitness and form. Despite showcasing his impressive skill set at the domestic level, Azam has endured a mighty struggle in international cricket.

The 25-year-old averages a dismal 9.77 at a strike rate of 135.38 with the highest score of only 30 in 13 T20Is. Azam had a horrific showing in the recent England series before the ongoing T20 World Cup.

However, he was still picked in the 15-member Pakistan squad for the Mega Event, leading to criticisms from the skeptics.

Talking on a local Sports channel, Misbah pointed to how even an accomplished cricketer like Virat Kohli cannot escape criticism.

"If there are no performances, criticism will come and even a player like Virat Kohli gets criticised. He (Azam Khan) needs to get mentally stronger and criticism will come but he should just stay focused for the longer run," said Misbah.

Azam, son of former Pakistan wicket-keeping great Moin Khan, also struggled behind the stumps in the recent series against England.

Although the youngster debuted for the Men in Green in 2021, poor form has meant his place in the side has been patchy.

"I have observed that the discipline he had in the past has been given up" - Misbah-ul-Haq

Misbah-ul-Haq further criticized Azam Khan for his lack of discipline in his fitness, which has come under scrutiny from experts and fans over the past few months.

Yet, the form and fitness issues aside, the right-hander still boasts an impressive record in T20s outside the international arena. Azam has scored over 3,000 runs at an average of almost 25 and a healthy strike rate of 148.03 in 165 T20 games.

"There was a time when he reduced his weight, did training and delivered performances. Nowadays, I have observed that the discipline he had in the past has been given up and I can see that he has increased his body weight. So, he also needs to think about it," said Misbah.

Meanwhile, Azam is part of Pakistan's playing XI in their ongoing clash against co-hosts USA in Dallas.

At the time of writing, Babar Azam's Men are reeling at 30/3 at the end of the powerplay, with Azam Khan slated to come in at the fall of the next wicket.

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