Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali has brought his ODI career to an end in order to solely focus on Test cricket.
Azhar last played ODI cricket against New Zealand in January this year, but his last major contributions came during the Champions Trophy last year.
In that tournament, Azhar struck 50 against India in the group stage before scoring 76 against England in the semi-final. He also had an impact with the bat in the final against India as he made 59. Thanks in part to his knock, Pakistan won the tournament for the first time ever.
Since being dropped from the ODI team, Imam-ul-Haq has taken Azhar’s spot and excelled as he has scored four centuries and three fifties in 15 matches at an average of 61.76.
“I haven’t taken this decision suddenly, I have been thinking about it,” Azhar said as quoted by ESPNcricinfo. “It’s the right time to focus on Tests. There have been terrific players in one-dayers in the Pakistan set-up. I want to concentrate on Tests with the same fitness and energy that I have been.
“I didn’t decide to retire after any hard feelings, it’s my personal decision. I want to focus on Tests with full energy and improve my career record there. I don’t have any regrets because I always gave all my efforts.
“As a former captain, I wish the team very best for an important season ahead before the World Cup next year. I fully support Sarfraz [Ahmed]. He has been leading them very well.”
During his tenure as captain, Pakistan only won four out of their 10 bilateral series, which came against Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland. They also drew one, but lost the other five. As a result of this, Pakistan slipped to a record-low ninth place in the ODI team rankings.
“It was tough [leading Pakistan],” Azhar said. “I had to take some tough decisions. Initially, people were not accepting my captaincy. We then lost the first series against Bangladesh 3-0. But the support staff and the board helped me a lot and built the team. After that I started to enjoy even when in tough situations. Captaining a Pakistan side is never easy.”
With Azhar having brought the curtain down on his ODI career, he finishes with 1,845 runs in 53 games, which included three hundreds and 12 half-centuries, at an average of 36.90.
Congratulating Azhar on his ODI career, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani said: “He captained in a time of transition for the national team and did well both as a leader and batsman. Azhar remains an integral part of Pakistan’s Test team. I am confident that he will continue to serve the team with distinction.”