Pakistan's performance in the five ODIs against Australia in January could determine Azhar Ali's future as captain with PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan saying the board had lost its trust in him. He added that Sarfraz Ahmed, who leads the T20 side, was a "strong option" to take over the captaincy, perhaps in all three formats whenever Misbah-ul-Haq retires from Test cricket.
Azhar has had a tough 19 months since he was appointed ODI captain in March 2015, soon after the World Cup. In his tenure, Pakistan had slipped to ninth place on the ICC rankings, with the 86 points they had being their lowest tally since the system was introduced in 2001. They have won only four out of nine series with Azhar in charge, two of them coming against Zimbabwe and Ireland.
In September, following a 4-1 defeat to England, Shaharyar asked Azhar to considering resigning. But Azhar preferred not to and led Pakistan to a 3-0 whitewash of West Indies in the UAE. However, Shaharyar and the PCB's doubts continued.
"We are more than happy with Azhar as a player, human being and a person," he said in Karachi. "But his leadership skills have not given us confidence and his place in ODI side is on shaky ground. It is also a fact that we had left it up to him to step down as captain during the England series but after a collective decision we decided to allow him to carry on for the West Indies series.
"It's really tough to make a decision after a captain won it by 3-0, but still I believe it's purely Azhar's own decision to let it go and he earlier refused to relinquish his captaincy."
Shaharyar said the board had asked head coach Mickey Arthur about his opinion on Azhar as captain and he too had voted in favor of a change and having Sarfraz in charge.
"Sarfraz is a strong option because we might even consider him for all three formats as captain. In our culture, it is always best to have one captain for all three formats in Pakistan cricket and historically it works for us. We don't like to force anyone to take decisions we don't work like that. And we would like to see a senior player go out with honor and respect."
The PCB was also on standby with regards to Misbah, who is yet to take a decision over how long he could continue playing for Pakistan. The three Tests against Australia may be his last. Before flying for the tour, Misbah had said he would take a call based on whether he felt he could still contribute to the team. "Misbah is a top-class captain and performer and has led the side well. Even at 42, he is super fit and I told him recently it was his decision when to retire," he said. "But we have also made our mind on possible back-ups if the tour does not go well."
Shaharyar understood that leaving the game can be a difficult decision. "It is true because for a top player it is always hard to leave the adulation and fame. But we would like to see that change."