Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman Azam Khan has been subjected to trolling on social media for his bulky frame and perceived lack of fitness this past week. The immediate trigger was him getting out to a bouncer from England fast bowler Mark Wood and then giving Will Jacks a reprieve after dropping a sitter behind the stumps. The clippings of these two incidents have gone viral and the 25-year-old’s place in Pakistan’s T20 World Cup is being questionedeven by experts.

Azam, the son of former Pakistan wicketkeeper Moin Khan, is not new to being at the receiving end of trolls. He, actually, uses the abuse to fire his motivation.

In Tabish Hashmi’s show ‘Hasna Mana hai’ on Geo News, the youngster talks about a poster in his room, which contains all the names he has been called. “Parchi, aloo, mota, sifarshi, nepotism, gainda, baby elephant.. I have written all these things on a poster in my room, and every day before going to the training I look at them and it gives me the extra confidence to do well,” he had said.

However, ahead of the T20 World Cup, it seems the trolling affected him. An active Instagram user, he restricted the comments section and then deleted all the photos he had posted.

‘Under immense pressure’

“He is under immense pressure. He is being body shamed, is being trolled,” former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif tells The Indian Express.

Azam has only represented Pakistan in 13 games, all T20 internationals, but has found it very difficult to get going. The swashbuckling batsman has looked all at sea at the international level and has not been able to replicate his franchise cricket form.

Festive offer

In the Pakistan Super League (PSL), where he was adjudged best gloveman in 2024, he has amassed 1,140 runs in 50 innings at a strike rate of 146.90. He is 19th on the list of all-time run-getters in the PSL and only Kieron Pollard (162.28), Asif Ali (156.51), and Collin Munro (150.58) have better strike rates. His numbers in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) are not bad either.

On low and slow tracks in the Caribbean, he has notched up 659 runs at a strike rate of 135.04. He is ninth on the strike-rate list among batsmen, who have scored a minimum of 600 runs. The eight ahead of him are Andre Russell (170.22), Rahkeem Cornwall (154.18), Finn Allen (149.79), Kieron Pollard (149.39), Nicholas Pooran (148.32), Brendon McCullum (146.40), Evin Lewis (142.33) and Faf du. Plessis (139.31).

Pakistan's Azam Khan bats during the fourth IT20 match between England and Pakistan in London, England Pakistan’s Azam Khan bats during the fourth IT20 match between England and Pakistan in London, England. (AP)

“Azam is an exceptional batsman in T20s. He is a clean hitter, plays spinners well, has worked on his game against the pacers. But I will not rate him as a keeper. It is nothing to do with his fitness, but because he doesn’t have that experience. He is still very new and raw to international level,” Rashid says.

Pakistan needs to give Mohammed Rizwan the big gloves if they are to progress deep in the tournament, the former captain thinks.

“Pakistan’s No.1 keeper should be Mohammed Rizwan. Rizwan is Pakistan’s best keeper and has been a warrior for this team. He has played in the last two T20I World Cups and was exceptional,” he adds.

‘Rizwan’s presence will help Babar’

Rashid also believes Pakistan captain Babar Azam will also benefit if Rizwan is the wicketkeeper.

“Wicketkeepers run the game from behind the stumps. This is why the captains are overdependent on them. It is not only about DRS but the other facets of the game as well. Now he is fielding in the deep, which is wrong. Babar doesn’t have that captaincy acumen, he needs Rizwan and if Rizwan is not Pakistan’s keeper, Pakistan will struggle in the World Cup,” Rashid says.

  Pakistan's Azam Khan with Shadab Khan Pakistan’s Azam Khan with Shadab Khan. (Reuters)

However, Azam has been deemed unfit by former greats and his wicket-keeping skills have come under fire. Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi had said he would never pick Azam for the national team. “I would never let Azam Khan get anywhere near the team as far as fitness is concerned,” Afridi had said on Samaa TV. Afridi added: “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.”

Rashid feels Pakistan should keep Azam in the playing XI but not as a keeper-batter.

“If Azam is not able to field then he doesn’t deserve to be in the XI. You can’t hide him in the field,” Rashid adds.

“When he played under Sarfaraz Ahmed (Quetta Gladiators), he was playing as a fielder. If you are picking Azam over Rizwan (as ‘keeper), then you are making a big blunder,” he adds.

However, Rashid says it is not Azam’s fault that he is in the Pakistan team and playing as a ‘keeper.

“I will not blame the player. Mohammad Haris is fit, more agile and in good form. If you wanted a third keeper, he should have been the ideal choice. I will not comment on Azam’s physique, I can comment on his batting, his form, his keeping, his selection. We live in a racist society. If someone’s skin color is black, we call them kaalu. If someone is fair, we call them gora. If someone is tall he is a lambu, if someone is skinny he is a patlu. I feel bad for the kid, he is only 25. He doesn’t deserve to be trolled like this.”