Azhar Ali quits as Pakistan ODI captain
Azhar Ali has quit as Pakistan's ODI captain, in the wake of mounting pressure on his leadership following the 4-1 defeat in Australia. Wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who is the T20I captain, will take over from Azhar in one-day internationals.
"Azhar agreed to relinquish his captaincy as he believed that his batting is being effected due to extra burden of leadership," PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan told ESPNcricinfo. "I respect his decision and he will continue to play as batsman in one day team, but now we all decided that Sarfraz will be handed the ODI captaincy."
Azhar, however, is set to miss Pakistan's next ODI because of a one-match suspension for a slow over rate during the tour of Australia.
Pakistan's leadership issues in one-day cricket had been discussed in January at a meeting attended by Shaharyar, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Mushtaq Ahmed, the head coach at the National Cricket Academy, in Lahore. They were thought to be united in their belief that Sarfraz should take over the ODI captaincy but were going to wait until Misbah-ul-Haq retired to name a new Test captain.
Under Azhar's leadership, Pakistan's slipped to a record-low ninth in the ODI rankings. They rose one place since, to at least be in the running for direct qualification to the 2019 World Cup, and scraped into this year's Champions Trophy - which features the top-eight teams.
Pakistan won only five out of ten bilateral series under Azhar, two of them against Zimbabwe, and one each against Ireland, Sri Lanka and West Indies. In all, Pakistan won 12 and lost 18 games under him.
The PCB had been thinking of removing Azhar for some time as well. In September last year, following a 4-1 loss in England, Shaharyar had asked Azhar to consider stepping down. Azhar decided to stay on, however, and led Pakistan to a 3-0 whitewash of West Indies in the UAE. That win left the PCB no choice but to retain him for the Australia tour. A day before the first Test in Brisbane, however, Shaharyar again raised concerns, telling ESPNcricinfo that Azhar's place in the ODI side was on shaky ground and that they were considering replacing him.