Pakistan Cricket Board has wielded the axe on their under-fire all-format skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed, stripping him of captaincy and dropping him for the upcoming tour of Australia, where they will play three T20Is and kick-start their World Test Championship campaign with two Tests. The big move comes exactly 12 months ahead of the T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia.
PCB has handed the Test reigns to Azhar Ali, while the T20 captaincy goes to Babar Azam.
Under Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy, Pakistan won the Champions Trophy in 2017 and rose to the top of the T20I rankings, but the tough call from the board comes in the aftermath of the team’s home series defeat to a severely-depleted Sri Lanka in T20Is.
Azhar Ali is currently Pakistan’s leading batsman in the Test format and had also quit ODI cricket last year in order to focus on the longest format of the game. Currently, he has 15 centuries and has scored more than 5600 runs in Tests.
“There is no bigger honour than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game,” Azhar Ali said following the appointment. “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 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.”
Babar is currently the world’s number one ranked T20I batsman and was also the vice captain during the recently concluded Sri Lanka series. Babar has already led Pakistan in the Under-19 World Cup in Australia in 2012. “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,” Babar said. “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.”
PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani acknowledged Sarfaraz’s contribution and remarked that the 32-year-old’s loss in confidence forced them to drop the wicketkeeper-batsman. “I want to congratulate Azhar Ali and Babar Azam on their elevations to the most coveted and prestigious jobs in cricket,” Ehsan said. “It has 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 Ahmed’s contributions are second to none and being the gutsy cricketer and fighter that we all know he is, I have no doubts he will be back in Pakistan colours at some stage,” he further added.
PCB also stated that a decision on ODI captaincy will be taken later since Pakistan are scheduled to play in the 50-over format only next year in July against Netherlands.