PCB sacks Sarfaraz as captain

October 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Azhar Ali has been elevated as the Test captain with Babar Azam getting the Pakistan Cricket Board backing for T20 captaincy till the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup to be held in Australia.Both...

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ISLAMABAD: Azhar Ali has been elevated as the Test captain with Babar Azam getting the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) backing for T20 captaincy till the 2020 ICC T20 World Cup to be held in Australia.

Both replaced out-of-form Sarfaraz Ahmed, who was seen struggling as a captain and as a player in recent times.

While Azhar takes over the national team at No 7 Test ranking, Babar will be seen leading No 1 ranked team in the shortest version of the game. Both will have the first taste of captaincy Down Under as the team leaves for Australia on October 26 for two Tests and three T20 matches. The two-Test series will be played in connection with the World Test Championship.

“I have learnt a lot from over decades of experience I am carrying along as an international player. I have learnt from my failures and my successes and I will carry that experience into the World Test Championship starting from the series against Australia,” Azhar said in a press briefing after talking over the captaincy.

Azhar has been considered as very close to Misbahul Haq and reports were already circulating on his being named as the next Test skipper. “We are to make a fresh beginning as bowlers like Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Aamir has already retired from Test cricket. We will need their replacements for a better and affective performance in months and years to come,” Azhar said.

The appointments were confirmed after Sarfaraz Ahmed was left out of both formats due to the drop in his overall form during the past few series.

Seventh-ranked Pakistan will play fifth-ranked Australia in two Tests in Brisbane (November 21-25) and Adelaide (November 29-December 3 (d/n)) before hosting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for two Tests apiece. Azhar 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 Misbahul Haq and Younis Khan’s prodigy 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 Pakistan were there in 2016-17 when he had scores of 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 (1156 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.

“There is no bigger honour than to captain the national team in the pinnacle format of the game. I feel humbled, excited and privileged, and with the support of the team, look forward to justifying the faith that has been entrusted upon me for the World Test Championship.

“Sarfaraz 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 a number of knowledgeable people in the hut from whom I may get advice and guidance.

“I am not only targeting wins, but also aim 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.”

Though Azhar captaincy was more or less certain following Sarafraz poor show in Test cricket in recent times, young Babar’s new assignment is being seen as a big risk taken by the PCB.

It is yet to be seen that Babar Azam, the No 1 ranked batsman in T20, will be in a position to do justice with his captaincy and his batting. Usually such extra burden puts extra pressure on top performers.

Babar had previously captained Pakistan in the ICC U19 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.

Babar 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.

“Sarfaraz has led the side in the shortest format by example and it is my responsibility to take forward his accomplishments so that we remain a consistent, attractive and powerful side.”

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