Batsman Azhar Ali’s ODI captaincy will be on the line during the upcoming five-match ODI series against Australia as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan has admitted that the board does not trust the 31-year-old anymore.
The octogenarian cricket administrator apparently already has a replacement in mind, with T20I skipper Sarfraz Ahmed the frontrunner to also become the 50-over captain before eventually taking over from Misbahul Haq as the Test captain upon his imminent retirement.
Azhar has had a torrid time at the helm since being appointed the new ODI captain in the aftermath of Pakistan’s disappointing showing at the 2015 World Cup. Under his leadership, the Men in Green’s International Cricket Council ranking has hit the nadir of ninth place, whereas the paltry total of 86 points represents their lowest-ever haul.
Of the nine ODI series Pakistan have played under Azhar, they have won just four — two of which came against minnows Zimbabwe and Ireland.
Following the team’s ODI humiliation at the hands of England in September, Azhar was asked to relinquish his position but he refused. He then led Pakistan to a 3-0 whitewash of the West Indies at their adopted home of UAE, but it seems that that sign of a mini-revival hasn’t convinced Shaharyar and company of Azhar’s leadership abilities.
“We are more than happy with Azhar as a player, human being and a person,” said Shaharyar. “But his leadership skills have not given us confidence and his place in ODI side is on shaky ground. It is also a fact that we had left it up to him to step down as captain during the England series but after a collective decision we decided to allow him to carry on for the West Indies series.
“It’s really tough to make a decision after a captain won it [the West Indies series] by 3-0, but still I believe it’s purely Azhar’s own decision to let it go and he earlier refused to relinquish his captaincy.”
He further said that head coach Mickey Arthur was also consulted on whether Azhar should be given one more chance or an axe should be wielded, and he too suggested the latter line of action.
“Sarfraz is a strong option because we might even consider him for all three formats as captain,” added the PCB supremo. “In our culture, it is always best to have one captain for all three formats in Pakistan cricket and historically it works for us. We don’t like to force anyone to take decisions we don’t work like that. And we would like to see a senior player go out with honour and respect.”
Such a shoo-in Sarfraz has become for captaincy in all three formats that Shaharyar didn’t even rule out the possibility of removing Test captain Misbah, who was previously believed to have earned the right to quit in his own time.
“Misbah is a top-class captain and performer and has led the side well,” said Shaharyar. “Even at 42, he is super fit and I told him recently it was his decision when to retire. But we have also made our mind on possible back-ups if the tour does not go well.
“It is true that for a top player it is always hard to leave the adulation and fame. But we would like to see that change.”
Shaharyar Khan was interviewed by ESPNCricinfo