Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Sarfaraz Ahmed’s tenure as Pakistan’s Test and T20 captain has come to an end, and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have named Azhar Ali and Babar Azam as his successors in the longest and shortest formats respectively.
Rumours had been spreading like wildfire that the clock was ticking for Sarfaraz ever since Pakistan failed to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals earlier this year.
However, with Pakistan being whitewashed 3-0 by a second-string Sri Lanka side in the recent Twenty20 series in Lahore, that seemed to be the last straw.
As if being sacked as captain wasn’t bad enough, Sarfaraz has also been dropped for the national team’s upcoming tour of Australia, which will consist of three Twenty20 Internationals from November 3 to 8, and two Tests from November 21 to December 3.
“It has been an honour to lead Pakistan at the highest level. I want to thank all my colleagues, coaches and selectors who have helped me in this journey. My good wishes are with Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and the Pakistan cricket team, and I hope they will continue to grow stronger and stronger,” Sarfaraz was quoted as saying in a press release from the PCB.
It remains to be seen what the PCB decide to do with the ODI captaincy, as a decision will be taken later on since Pakistan’s next ODI assignment will be a three-match series against the Netherlands in Amstelveen in July 2020.
The board also confirmed that Pakistan’s new vice-captains will be named in due course.
“It has been a difficult decision to drop Sarfaraz Ahmed, who has performed well as a player and a leader,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said. “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.”
Azam, who has been Pakistan’s most consistent batsman as of late, does have experience captaining teams as he led the country’s Under-19 squad during the 2012 Under-19 World Cup.
He is also captaining Central Punjab in the National T20 Cup.
“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,” Azam 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.
“Sarfaraz Ahmed 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.”
Azhar, who has been a regular face in Pakistan’s Test side, was delighted to have been appointed as the country’s Test captain.
“There is no bigger honour than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game,” he said. “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.
“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 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.”