Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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PCB chairman Najam Sethi has attempted to calm speculation around the role of Babar Azam, backing him as Pakistan's all-format captain for now. In his first public comments offering further detail on what has become a lingering locus of instability for the Pakistan side since Sethi took over, he tweeted that everyone "should support Babar and not make matter controversial in interests of the national team".
However, Sethi's tweets did not offer the Pakistan captain his complete backing, acknowledging that he had weighed the "pros and cons" of removing him, and he would be "guided by the selectors and head coach".
"For months media and cricketing circles have been discussing pros and cons of retaining Babar Azam as captain in all formats of the game," Sethi said. "Since this decision is ultimately Chairman's, I have sought views of Selection Committees headed by Shahid Afridi and now Haroon Rashid. Both Committees thought matter merited discussion but both later came to the conclusion that the status quo should be retained.
"I have subsequently publicly stated this position. In the final analysis my decision will be subject to the success or failure of status quo. I will also be guided by what the Selectors and Director Cricket Ops and Head Coach have to say going forward. I expect they will be in the best position to advise me. Therefore we should support Babar and not make matter controversial in interests of national team."
Since Sethi took over from Ramiz Raja as chairman, the PCB has been reviewing team structure. As ESPNcricinfo had reported in January, the PCB is pondering taking away Babar's all-format captaincy after a disappointing last two home seasons. Over the 2022-23 home season, Pakistan lost 3-0 against England in Tests and 4-3 in T20Is, drew 0-0 in a Test series and lost 2-1 in an ODI series against New Zealand. They fared better away, though, winning a T20I tri-series in New Zealand and reaching the final of the T20 World Cup in Australia.
When Sethi took office, the PCB made Shan Masood vice-captain in ODIs somewhat out of the blue. Until then, Shan had only played 5 ODIs, the last of them coming in 2019. At the time that was perceived to cause internal strife, with Babar insisting he would have the last say in selection matters. The new vice-captain did not play the first two matches, only taking part in the third, where he was dismissed for 0.
For a recent T20I series against Afghanistan, Pakistan rested a core of senior players - Babar, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf and Shaheen Afridi. Shadab Khan, the official vice captain, took over at the helm, but Pakistan went on to lose that series 2-1. As a white-ball series against New Zealand looms, the seniors have returned to the squad, with Babar resuming the captaincy.