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News

Babar Azam resigns as Pakistan captain in all formats

Babar says he will continue to play for Pakistan in all three formats, Shan Masood the favourite to take over the Test captaincy

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
15-Nov-2023
Babar Azam has resigned as Pakistan captain in all formats following their poor 2023 ODI World Cup campaign, where they failed to qualify for the semi-finals with just four wins in nine matches.
"I vividly remember the moment when I received the call from PCB to lead Pakistan in 2019. Over the past four years, I've experienced many highs and lows on and off the field, but I wholeheartedly and passionately aimed to maintain Pakistan's pride and respect in the cricket world," Babar said in a statement announcing his decision. "Reaching the No. 1 spot in the white-ball format was a result of the collective efforts of players, coaches, and management but I'd like to express my gratitude to passionate Pakistan cricket fans for their unwavering support during this journey.
"Today, I am stepping down as the captain of Pakistan in all formats. It's a difficult decision but I feel it is a right time for this call. I will continue to represent Pakistan as a player in all three formats. I am here to support the new captain and the team with my experience and dedication. I want to express my sincere thanks to the PCB for entrusting me with this significant responsibility."
Babar scored 320 runs in nine matches during the World Cup - the third highest for Pakistan - at an average of 40 and strike rate of 82.90.
No official statement has been made about a potential replacement, but Shan Masood is the overwhelming favourite to take over the Test captaincy with immediate effect. Masood is understood to have been at the Gaddafi Stadium today.
Shortly after the resignation, the PCB issued a statement saying Babar was offered the option to continue as Test captain, while the decision to remove him as white-ball skipper was presented to him as fait accompli. "After consultation with his family, Babar decided to step down and PCB stands behind his decision. PCB respects his decision and continues to support him as a player,"
"Babar Azam is truly a world-class player and we want him to continue to thrive as a player," Ashraf said. "He is one of the best batters Pakistan has ever produced. He is our asset, and we will continue to support him."
Speculation around Babar's future had been mounting since Pakistan's exit from an indifferent World Cup was confirmed, though there is understood to have been little consensus on a potential replacement. The situation was further complicated by uncertainty around whether the current PCB setup had the authority to sack the Pakistan captain. That prerogative normally rests with the PCB chairman, and while Zaka Ashraf is currently performing that duty, he is the head of the PCB management committee on a temporary basis, a role he had extended for three months by the Pakistan caretaker prime minister. A court in Pakistan ruled the committee did not have the power to make significant changes during their tenure, and were to operate only on a caretaker basis. The removal of a Pakistan captain was widely understood to fall outside the ambit of the committee.
However, after a lengthy meeting at the PCB headquarters where deliberations on the fate of the Pakistan captain, as well as the coaching staff, took place, Babar resigned. He did not offer a specific reason beyond saying he felt it was the right time.
ESPNcricinfo understands Pakistan team director Mickey Arthur and head coach Grant Bradburn will not be sacked - another action this management committee likely lacks the authority to take. However, they will find their roles reduced significantly; neither are expected to be part of the travelling contingent for Pakistan's next tour, a three match Test series in Australia starting next month.
There has been no official word on who will replace them in the coaching setup for that tour, though Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz and Younis Khan have all been speculated to form part of the travelling contingent in some managerial capacity or another. Zaka Ashraf met all three yesterday, though no reason was officially given for the meeting. Should any of them be tasked with coaching or managing the team in Australia, it is expected they will do so an an ad-hoc basis; permanent coaching appointments are likely beyond the scope of this management committee.
Pakistan depart for Australia on November 30, and play a warm-up game against the Prime Minister's XI at the Manuka Oval from December 6 to 9. The first Test begins in Perth on December 14. After the three Tests, the side also plays five T20Is in New Zealand.
There is no word yet on a T20 captain, but ESPNcricinfo understands Shaheen Afridi is the favourite.

Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000