‘Prove fitness or you’re out’: Azhar Mahmood warns Pakistan players

Azhar Mahmood
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood. — Reuters/File

Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood has reinforced the importance of fitness as a pre-requisite for players to cement their spot in the national side.

Umar Akmal, a regular part of the Pakistan limited-overs roster, was ignored by the selectors for the team’s tour to the West Indies, which kicks off on Sunday in Bridgetown with the first of the four Twenty20 Internationals.

“It was unfortunate that Umar was unable to pass fitness tests and was subsequently discarded,” Azhar wrote for Pakpassion.net.

“But make no mistake, there are no question marks on his abilities as a fine batsman,” he added.

Azhar believed Pakistan have recently failed to cope up with the continuously rising requirements of the modern-day game and blamed lack of fitness for their drop in the rankings.

According to the former all-rounder the recent drubbing against Australia Down-Under was due to the batsmen’s inability to run efficiently between the wickets paired with the lack of athleticism shown by fielders’ to cut off the opponents’ run flow.

“If you compare our team’s fitness levels with those of South Africa and Australia, then you will realize that due to this factor we are forty to fifty runs behind even before the first ball is bowled in any game we play,” said Azhar who played 143 ODIs for Pakistan.

“To put it in simpler terms, where for us there is a double to be made whilst batting, the Australians will make three runs and so on.”

“On the field, where there should really be one run, they are able to score two with ease.”

Since the arrival of Head Coach Mickey Arthur in May last year, the Pakistan players have been asked to focus on their fitness and warned that if they failed to do so it can cost them their place in the national side.

“I wouldn’t say that the fitness tests in our camp were that difficult but the message was clear to all including Umar Akmal that if you aren’t fit, you will not be selected. Unlike in the past, there will be no compromise on fitness and this should really be clear to all players, especially those who aren’t new to the international scene,” said Azhar.

Pakistan will play three ODIs and three Test matches against the West Indies after the T20 series.