Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has removed Sarfaraz Ahmed from the post of skipper in Test and T20I formats and appointed Azhar Ali as Test captain and Babar Azam as T20I captain.
The PCB has given a rationale of Sarfaraz’s removal that he lost his confidence due to change in captaincy.
PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani, who approved the appointments, said: “I want to congratulate Azhar Ali and Babar Azam on their elevations to the most coveted and prestigious jobs in cricket.
He said that it had been a difficult decision to drop Sarfaraz Ahmed, who has performed well as a player and a leader. But, his loss in form and confidence is visible and, in the best interest of the team, it has been decided to leave him out and provide him the opportunity to reflect and regroup himself and try to reclaim his form away from international cricket.
Sarfaraz, a winning captain of Champions’ Trophy 2017, who took Pakistan in T20I world ranking to the top position, has been facing criticism over his batting performance since World Cup 2019.
A whitewash in T20I home series against Sri Lanka is said to be the turning point for Sarfaraz’s career that led to throwing him out of Test and T20I squads of Pakistan team.
However, critics were of the view that abrupt reshuffling in world number one Pakistan T20I squad in home series against Sri Lanka with the selection of Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad, who are known for their bad disciplines, by head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq without his consent has shaken his confidence, which badly affected his ability to captaining the team and batting.
Meanwhile, new Test team skipper Azhar Ali said that there was no bigger honor than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game.
“Sarfaraz Ahmed has done an excellent job in transforming raw talent into experienced players and I now look forward to inspiring those skillful players in our endeavours to collectively achieve our world Test championship objectives and beyond.
“These are exciting times in Pakistan cricket with a new team management. As a captain, I feel comfortable that there will be number of knowledgeable people in the hut who I can rely for advice and guidance.
“I am not only targeting wins, but also aiming to provide opportunities to players to grow in stature and express themselves so that Pakistan cricket can resume its journey to the top. I have always played my cricket the hard way but in a fair manner, and will ensure I continue to uphold the spirit of cricket and enhance the image of the team and the country.”
Babar Azam vowed to take forward Sarfaraz’s accomplishments in T20Is in order to remain a consistent, attractive and powerful side.
Babar Azam said: “To be named captain of the No.1 ranked side in the world is the biggest thing that has happened to my career to date. I am ready for this challenge and also willing to learn more in the process. I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities.
Meanwhile, Sarfaraz said that it has been an honor to lead Pakistan at the highest level and thanked all his colleagues, coaches and selectors who helped him in this journey.
The seventh-ranked Pakistan will play fifth-ranked Australia in two Tests in Brisbane (21-25 November) and Adelaide (29 November-3 December (d/n)) before hosting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for two Tests apiece.
Pakistan is also scheduled to play three T20Is each against Australia (3, 5 and 8 November) and Bangladesh before the curtain falls on their international domestic season in early February 2020.
Azhar Ali has been a mainstay of Pakistan’s batting lineup since making his debut against Australia at Lord’s in 2010. The 34-year-old is regarded as Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan’s prodigies and has scored 5,669 runs with 15 centuries and 31 half-centuries in 73 Tests.
Azhar had an excellent tour of Australia last time when Pakistan were there in 2016-17 when he had scored 5, 71, 205 not out, 43, 71 and 11. His other scores against Australia in England and the UAE are 16, 42, 30, 51, 53, 30, 109, 100 not out, 18, 4, 15 and 64. This means the 21st ranked batsman in the world has aggregated 938 runs in nine Tests against Australia, his second most after Sri Lanka (1,156 runs in 14 Tests).
In the ongoing four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Azhar is the second most successful batsman with 388 runs in four matches as his side Central Punjab leads the field with two wins.
Babar Azam, the No.1 ranked batsman in T20Is, has previously captained Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012. He was vice captain in the recently-concluded series against Sri Lanka and is presently captaining Central Punjab in the National T20 Cup where he scored a 59-ball 102 on the opening day against Sindh.
The decision of captaincy for the ODIs will be finalized in due course as the national team’s next assignment is scheduled from 4-9 July 2020 against the Netherlands in Amstelveen.