Despite whom he is related to and how he looks, Azam Khan has got game.
There is no reason for Azam Khan’s critics to eat the humble pie.
When there is historical and visual evidence to a hunch, it’s only logical to fully embrace it. So it would have been akin to defying logic had keyboard warriors, at the first look, not branded the son of Moin Khan a product of nepotism.
Combine that with an athlete who packs nearly 300lbs on a short frame and the entire situation screams of a desperate father pushing his son to make a career in a business he does not belong.
That conventional logic is based on more than 70 years of Pakistan’s tradition. Many a dad have done this for their sons. From top-level politics to mid-tier middle class and even at lower levels, nepotism, cronyism and a complete disregard for merit is the name of the game.
With that firmly established, in comes Azam, the son to a famous father and the owner of a non-athletic body.
The date is March 5 of 2019, and the Gladiators have already made it out of the group stages with a few matches to spare. Azam walks onto the pitch with the score at 24-1 and takes 15 balls for his laborious dozen runs before being sent back to the dugout.
For the rest of 2019, Azam was called a parchi. So when the Gladiators picked him again as an emerging player in the 2020 draft, it was all that chatter that Moin was willing to do all he could to make a professional cricketer out of his son.
Those parchi jeers disappeared though when he took the crease last Thursday with the defending champions in a tough spot at 26-3 when chasing 172.
Azam, unexpectedly, singlehandedly changed the match. Under the cosh and with no prior experience of such situations, the chap capitalised on a dropped catch and scored a 33-ball 59. He would do it again in a 46-run knock days later against his hometown.
Those two knocks have made the haters rethink. Never before in a long time has a reality in Pakistan cricket seemed so baffling.
Azam, the supposed epitome of what an athlete should not look like, an alleged product of nepotism, has got the game that negates all the notions about him. How could that be?
Those still in denial after the first innings consoled themselves by saying that all his strokes were on the on-side, and that bowlers wouldn’t always bowl to his strengths.
Against Karachi then, he displayed his range of strokes on the off-side, the highlight of which was a fabulous six off Mohammad Amir in deep extra cover.
All of this when he has only ever played eight zero first-class, eight List A matches (average of a mere 13.25) and nothing since his forgettable PSL debut last year.
Some could argue that his selection by the Gladiators without any significant experience in domestic cricket is proof that roads have been paved for him wherever he’s gone. But then that’s nothing new. Mohammad Hasnain and Muhammad Musa Khan had little to no first-class experience and they were drafted by their sides. Heck, Haris Rauf was a tape ball cricketer but he showed enough speed and passed the eye test so he was plucked out of Pindi streets and made a PSL pacer.
The point being that Azam, despite whom he is related to and how he looks, has got game. He is a walking contradiction as the symptoms he displays reek of nepotism but the on-field evidence belies our pre-conceived notions. The weird, inexplicable randomness of nature is at work in Azam and, for once, we have no option but to take it on the chin and move on.
Azam Khan is a player and a half (no puns intended).
Header image: Azam Khan of Quetta Gladiators plays a lofted shot during their PSL match against Islamabad United. — Photo courtesy PCB
The writer is a cricket aficionado based in Karachi. He sells cars by day and writes sports by night. The views expressed by this writer do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.