Hammad Azam is a promising all-rounder from Pakistan © AFP
By Amir Husain
May 3, 2014
Pakistan has had a proud history of producing fast bowling all-rounders. It is therefore a matter of grave concern to the management and fans alike, that the current all-rounder slot in the team has no established player. Ever since the decline in form and eventual omission of Abdul Razzaq, the team has struggled to find a suitable international replacement for this all-important role in modern day cricket. Whilst the all-rounder may not be the crucial cog in the wheel for the Test format, the shorter formats of the game demand as many world-class all-rounders as a team can possibly afford to employ and this is something which Pakistan has dearly missed in its recent appearances in ICC tournaments.
Amongst the names mentioned quite often as inheritors of the crown previously worn by the likes of former great Imran Khan as well as Abdul Razzaq and to an extent even Wasim Akram, recent records suggest that Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali are as close as Pakistan will get to filling the slot. However, another name which seems to hover on the fringes is that of the 23 year old Hammad Azam.
Hailing from Attock in Punjab province Azam, widely regarded as one of the most promising talents that Pakistan has in its armoury, has already played eight One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and five Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) for his country. He made his ODI debut for Pakistan against West Indies in 2011 and last played for Pakistan against Bangladesh in the 2011-12 Asia Cup. In T20Is, he made his debut against England in Dubai in 2012 and last played in this format against the West Indies in Kingstown (2013). Away from International commitments, Azam has also led Pakistan Under-23 to the finals of the Emerging Teams Cup in 2013, where his team lost to India.
Whilst his record in both formats of the game in the international arena has shown steady progress, the lack of eye-catching performances may well have contributed to his exclusion from international squads in the recent past. This is a fact that Azam recognizes and he opined to PakPassion.net, “At the moment my sole focus is to concentrate on my cricket and to perform to the best of my abilities. I am trying very hard to make my way back into the Pakistan international side.”
The SuperStarsT20 tournament is considered as one of the region’s top-tier tournaments with 16 clubs from the UAE taking part. The tournament commenced on 19th April and is being played in a round robin format with four groups comprising of four teams each. After the round-robin matches the knock out stage will be hosted with the qualified teams from the round robin format competing in quarter finals and semi-finals. The tournament comes to an end with the final game being played on 16th of May.
Azam, alongside fellow Pakistani Fawad Alam, is making an appearance in this tournament for the Yas Sports Rawalpindi Royals Club, where he made an immediate impression in his first game with his side’s Super Over victory over the Colombo Lions. Azam stamped his seal of authority on the game with 31 off 31 balls and then followed it up with 2 wickets in four overs. With the 20-over game ending in a tie, it was left to Azam to see his team to victory, as he was chosen to bat and bowl in the decisive Super Over.
Clearly overjoyed with his experience so far, Azam agreed that performances like the one in his first game here was what he needs to make his presence known to the selectors in Pakistan and also mentioned the help of former Pakistan fast bowler and current UAE coach, Aaqib Javed, in his attaining this goal, “I am obviously pleased with my performance last night and am focusing on my batting. I feel that I am in good form at the moment and I am working hard on my bowling as well and trying to take wickets rather than just containing batsmen. I am also thankful to Aaqib Javed for his help. I have had a few very good sessions with him and Aaqib’s [Javed] advice and tips have made a real difference to my bowling”
The SuperstarsT20 tournament which is now in its second season, clearly does not have the glamour associated with the other big show that recently ended in Dubai. However, the disappointment felt by many fans at the absence of Pakistani cricketers from the Indian Premier League (IPL) may well be alleviated with the knowledge that a vast array of their stars are also in UAE playing in the region’s most prestigious tournament.
If the names of Pakistani players taking part in this tournament are any indication, the SupersStarsT20 is held in high esteem by many Pakistani stars, and Azam is in no doubt about the quality of cricket that he is playing and the spectators can expect to see until the last ball is bowled on 16th May.
“I also played in the first season of SuperStarsT20 and really have no hesitation in terming this as the best domestic tournament in UAE. Whilst the pitches in UAE are good for batting and spin bowling but not conducive to fast bowlers, the fact is that the level of competition is extremely high and all the players participating are of high calibre. My single minded focus is on improving my all-round abilities and to make a comeback into the Pakistan national side as early as possible. I will be more than happy if participation in SuperStarsT20 proves to be my road to success.”
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net)