Karachi: Inexperienced top-order batsman Azhar Ali was yesterday named as the new Pakistan ODI captain in a surprise move by the cricket Board, succeeding Misbah-ul-Haq who retired from the 50-over format after the cricket World Cup.
Azhar Ali. Pic/AFP
30-year-old Azhar has played just 14 ODIs since his debut in 2010 and his choice over the likes of Muhammad Hafeez, Fawad Alam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Sohaib Maqsood and veteran batsman Younis Khan has come as a big surprise as he was not even picked in the World Cup squad.
He has played in 39 Tests. Azhar, who has not played a one-day international since January 2013, was also named as vice-captain to Misbah-ul-Haq in the Test side while wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed would be the ODI and T20 vice-captain. Shahid Afridi will be the captain of the T20 side.
Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shaharyar Khan also introduced Haroon Rasheed as the new chief selector in place of Moin Khan at a media conference in Lahore. Announcing the Board's determination to learn from the World Cup experience, Shaharyar Khan praised Misbah and Afridi for their contribution to Pakistan cricket.
Both Misbah and Afridi have announced their retirements from one-day cricket after the World Cup. "I congratulate Misbah and Afridi on their retirements from one-day cricket after giving so much service to Pakistan," Khan said. Khan also said that senior batsman Younis Khan remained a role model for younger players and would continue to be considered for Test and ODI cricket as he had no plans to retire immediately from limited-overs format.
Azhar said that he was honoured to be made captain of the national one-day side. "It will be a great challenge to carry on the good work of Misbah who has done a lot for Pakistan cricket. I will not try to make too many changes in the team. my main thrust is to try to bring more consistency in our performances," he said.
Azhar pointed out that he had played a lot of 50-over and T20 cricket at the domestic level and also had experience of leading his departmental side. "I have captained champions Sui Gas whenever Misbah has been on Pakistan duty," he said. Shaharyar said that the PCB had tried to bring a change in the national selection committee to give Pakistan cricket more consistency in performances.
Haroon, 62, will be assisted by former Test players Saleem Jaffer, Azhar Khan and Kabir Khan who has also coached the Afghanistan side for a number of years. Azhar and Jaffer also served on previous national selection committees recently.
Khan said Haroon will relinquish his position as Director Game Development in the PCB and batting consultant of the national women's team to focus on his new job. Interestingly, the announcement by Khan was made a day before the Board of Governors is due to meet in Lahore.