Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), on Monday (September 19), announced that Azhar Ali will lead the side for the upcoming three-match One-Day International (ODI) series against West Indies, despite calls for his removal following a 4-1 series defeat against England earlier this month.
Azhar has been widely criticised for his unimaginative captaincy since taking over from Misbah-ul-Haq, who retired from the 50-over format after the World Cup last year. He has led his country to 15 losses in 25 matches, with nine wins and one no result. Incidentally, Pakistan have dropped to ninth in the ODI rankings.
Sarfraz Ahmed, who had been tipped to replace Azhar as the captain for the 50-over format, will lead the side in the three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series, starting in Dubai from Friday (September 23).
The T20I series will be followed by three ODI matches, with Azhar as captain and as many Tests – all in the United Arab Emirates, where Pakistan have played most of their home games since 2009 for security reasons.
Subhan Ahmed, PCB’s chief operating officer, said that a decision on whether to give Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal a farewell match would be taken at a meeting on September 26. According to reports, PCB’s selection committee headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq wanted to give Afridi a swansong match, but the move was opposed by other officials.
Afridi stepped down as Pakistan’s T20 captain following their first-round exit in the World T20 held in India in April. He vowed to continue as a player, but has not been picked since. Ajmal lost his place in the team after failing to make an impression with a remodelled action following a chucking suspension in 2014.
Subhan also noted that PCB had not ruled out picking ex-captain Salman Butt, one of three players punished for spot-fixing in 2010. Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir had their bans lifted in September last year. However, only Amir, who was 18 at the time of his ban and garnered widespread sympathy, has staged an international comeback.
Butt’s remarkable form since his return, scoring 536 in seven List A matches last year and 350 runs in eight T20 games has put him back in the running, especially given Pakistan’s paucity of batting resources. “There is no bar on Butt’s selection,” said Subhan. “Our selection committee can select any player.”