The Pakistan Cricket Board on Friday sacked Sarfaraz Ahmed as captain of the cricket team from all three formats of the game. The decision was not exactly a surprise, but did raise some eyebrows because Sarfaraz was the most successful T20 skipper for the country.
Sarfaraz has been under immense pressure since World Cup 2019, largely due to the team’s performances but also because of his own form with both bat and behind the wickets.
After the recent T20I humiliation to Sri Lanka, Sarfaraz has been facing severe criticism regarding his role in the team both as a captain and player.
However, The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday removed Sarfaraz Ahmed from captaincy in all three formats following his poor performance.
Sources have now revealed the behind-the-scenes developments that led to the sacking of Safaraz.
According to officials privy to the workings of the cricket board, PCB chief Waseem Khan personally traveled to Faisalabad in order to inform Sarfaraz of his removal.
Sources maintain that Khan travelled to meet Sarfaraz, who is in Faislaabad for a National Twenty20 match, that the board had made a decision to relieve him of his duties as skipper, but in order to provide him with a safe exit, he had been given the opportunity to resign by the PCB chief.
Waseem Khan also advised Sarfaraz to take a break from international cricket to concentrate on his form and fitness, before trying to make a comeback into the national team.
However, Sarfaraz refused to step down, and instead asked the PCB to drop him from the team.
It is pertinent to mention that speculation about Sarfaraz stepping down from his role as skipper was rife ever since he withdrew from leading the Sindh side in the national Twenty20 tournament.
In the meeting with Waseem Khan though, Sarfaraz, apparently dejected, refused to resign.
According to sources, over the past two days, a think tank of the Pakistan Cricket Board had mulled over changes to the national cricket team before the upcoming tour to Australia. A consensus was built around removing Sarfaraz as captain of the team and a final decision made.
After Sarfaraz asked to be dropped from the side in his meeting with Khan, the PCB decided to grant his request. Azhar Ali was announced as Test captain and Babar Azam as the T20 captain. Since Pakistan does not play a One-Day match for the next few months, a decision about the ODI captaincy would be announced later.
Sarfaraz said: “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.”
Sources also added that Head Coach and Chief Selector of Pakistan Cricket Team Misbah ul Haq met T20 captain Babar Azam and informed him of his new responsibility, and the selection policy regarding senior players in the team, over the last two days.
Azam, the No 1 ranked batsman in T20Is, has previously captained Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012. He was vice-captain in the recently-concluded series against Sri Lanka and is presently captaining Central Punjab in the National T20 Cup where he scored a 59-ball 102 on the opening day against Sindh.
Azam said: “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. 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.”
Reacting on appointed as test team captain, Azhar Ali 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.”
He added, “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,” Azhar Ali added.
Seventh-ranked Pakistan will play fifth-ranked Australia in two Tests in Brisbane (November 21-25) and Adelaide (November 29-December 3 (d/n)) before hosting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for two Tests apiece.
Pakistan are also scheduled to play three T20Is each against Australia (November 3, 5 and 8) and Bangladesh before the curtain falls on their international domestic season in early February 2020.
(With input from Geo News / PCB / Private Source)