‘Azhar Ali’s captaincy to be reviewed’

Azhar Ali may not retain his position as Pakistan’s Test Captain during next month’s tour of New Zealand after Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Wasim Khan said that the 35-year-old’s leadership will be “reviewed”.

According to details, rumours are rife in the executive corridors of PCB’s headquarters about a younger replacement. The speculations come just 12 months after Azhar replaced Sarfaraz Ahmed as Pakistan’s Test captain. Mohammad Rizwan and current limited-overs captain Babar Azam are the top choices for potential replacements for Test captaincy, with the change likely to happen as early as December when Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand is scheduled to take place.

Wasim also revealed that Azhar’s annual appraisal is being carried out and that a final decision has not been made yet as constitutionally the prerogative to name or dismiss a captain rests with PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani, who is due to meet Ali in the next ten days.

Azhar has struggled with form over the past two years and found himself in a sustained slump until he scored a hundred in Karachi late last year, followed by a fighting century in a rain-hit draw against England in Southampton in August.

Azhar is presently the most capped player in the Pakistan side with 81 Test matches in a career that started in 2010. He was appointed ODI captain following Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi’s ODI retirements after the 2015 World Cup when he hadn’t been part of Pakistan’s ODI plans. Following poor results in England and Australia during his tenure, he was axed from captaincy in January 2017 but remained in the squad until 2018 before losing his spot to younger players.

Ali had refused an offer to take up Test captaincy in 2017 after Misbah and Younis Khan retired from the longer format, with the PCB deciding to hand over the captaincy in all formats to Sarfaraz. While his limited-overs replacement Babar looks more secure than ever, Azhar’s stint as Test captain may well be drawing to a premature close.

Meanwhile, Wasim has backed Misbah and Babar as coach and captain for next year’s World Twenty20.

In a press conference, Wasim while speaking about Misbah and Babar had said: “Like every other job, that of the head coach and the captain is also performance-based. At the moment, our main focus is white-ball cricket with World Twenty20 events in each of the next two years and we’re backing Misbah and Babar for the next World Twenty20 as they’re both doing well together.”

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