Sarfaraz Ahmed has been sacked as Pakistan captain from the Test and T20I formats, a Pakistan Cricket Board press release announced on Friday, 18 October.
The wicket-keeper batsman has also been dropped from the squad for both formats, a consequence of his indifferent form. The move comes just ahead of the tour of Australia, where Pakistan will three T20Is and two Tests, and just a year removed from the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2020. Between the two events, Pakistan will also host Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for two Tests each, and the latter for three T20Is.
Sarfaraz will be replaced by top-order batsman Azhar Ali as Test captain, while 25-year-old batsman Babar Azam will take charge of the T20I side and remain in charge until next year's World Cup.
JUST IN: Sarfaraz Ahmed has been removed as Pakistan's Test and T20I captain. Azhar Ali and Babar Azam will replace him. pic.twitter.com/3OhXWYbrCG— ICC (@ICC) 18 October 2019
Azhar has for long been one of their most dependable red-ball batsmen, with 5669 runs in 73 Tests at an average of 43.27. He was one of Pakistan's heroes during their previous tour of Australia, returning with 406 runs – the most for his side – from six innings, at an average of 81.20, with a hundred and two fifties. He is also currently second on the batting charts at the 2019/20 Quaid-e-Azam trophy, Pakistan's premier first-class competition, with 388 runs in four matches at 77.60.
Reacting to being handed the captaincy, Azhar said: “There is no bigger honour than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game. 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 skilful players in our endeavours to collectively achieve our World Test Championship objectives and beyond.
“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."
“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.”
Babar has long been considered the leading batsman among Pakistan's younger generation of players. The No.1-ranked T20I batsman in the world, Babar averages close to 50 in the shortest format at the international level. He has previously captained Pakistan at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2012. Presently, he is engaged in Pakistan's National T20 Cup, where he slammed 102* off 59 balls in Sindh's tournament opener.
“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," Babar 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.”
Sarfaraz exits with a captaincy record of 29 wins in 37 matches, for a win percentage of 78.37 – the highest among Pakistan captains to have led in 20 or matches at this level. He had a more modest record in Tests, with four wins and eight defeats in 13 matches. Under his leadership, Pakistan rose to the No.1 position in the ICC Men's T20I Team Rankings, and won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in spectacular fashion in England, defeating the tournament hosts and favourites, and India, in the semi-final and final.
His ouster comes in the aftermath of a 3-0 defeat to a second-string Sri Lanka side at home. Nevertheless, the 32-year-old looked back on his time in charge of the team fondly and wished the two new candidates the best with their future assignments. “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," he said. "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.”
Pakistan will begin their new era with a three-match T20I series against Australia, starting on 3 November. That will be followed by a two-Test series, which will also mark their foray into the ICC World Test Championship.
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