Azam’s rise has also been accompanied by constant talk around his fitness levels and weight
“When it comes to fitness, every guy has a responsibility to try and improve every day,” du Plessis said at a virtual press conference. “That looks different for every single person. For me, at an older age, I don’t stop thinking about how I can improve myself as a cricketer, how I can improve my fitness, how I can improve my body, how I can improve my mind.
“The difference between guys who do it for a very short period and guys who do it for longer, it’s just improving, it’s smaller gains right throughout your career. For someone like him [Azam], no, he doesn’t have to look like me to be successful. It would just be small improvements every day. Right now, it might be something like fielding he could focus on, getting quicker to the ball, making sure [the] hands are good, taking all the catches and gradually putting in the work to become a better version of himself, or myself, or someone.”
What will be important, du Plessis said, was that Azam gives himself the best physical base from which to perform the role he is required to perform.
“It’s unfair to compare different people, we’re comparing two different players. He’s a guy who will always come and be a power hitter and hit it a long way. What he will need to work on obviously is how can I make sure I’m fit enough to run between wickets, to get twos and threes for longer periods, when it gets hot out there, or how to make sure I don’t get tired at 20-30, but stay till I get 70, 80, 90. So it looks different for every single guy.
“I’m certainly not a believer that every guy has to have a six-pack to be a successful cricketer. You work with what you have. You look at the greats in the game before, there’s been guys long before me and after me and him, who will all look different but had the skillsets to perform.”
The immediate task ahead of both du Plessis and Azam will be to turn around Quetta’s poor start to this disrupted season. Five games in, Quetta have a solitary win and sit at the bottom of the table. Given the interruption in the season, however, a total reset is very much possible.
“We find ourselves in a position we wouldn’t like to be,” du Plessis said. “Towards the end [earlier in the season] I felt we started playing our best cricket. Also, all of the teams have changed a lot. Even a lot of the teams looking strong at the top of the table would have a lot of changes in their teams because of Covid and the availability of a lot of overseas players. It’s almost like a new tournament and that’s starting on the 9th. Unfortunately we can’t start slow. We have to start in a winning way where we hit the ground running in the first game.
“In the first half of the tournament we either batted really well, or we bowled really well. Only in the last game we put it together and put in a complete performance.”