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News

Afridi set to lose T20I captaincy as PCB offers white-ball role to Babar

Babar, who hasn't accepted the offer yet, has asked the PCB to be appointed captain across all three formats if he is to consider a return

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
29-Mar-2024
Shaheen Shah Afridi was appointed T20I captain after Babar Azam stepped down from the role across formats in November  •  AFP/Getty Images

Shaheen Shah Afridi was appointed T20I captain after Babar Azam stepped down from the role across formats in November  •  AFP/Getty Images

Shaheen Shah Afridi's one-series stint as Pakistan T20I captain is set to come to an end, with Babar Azam offered the white-ball captaincy once more. The PCB chairman Mohsin Naqvi met Babar earlier this week to make the offer.
Babar, for his part, has not yet accepted the offer. The decision to strip him of the armband in all three formats following Pakistan's poor 2023 ODI World Cup campaign rankled him, and he has asked the PCB to be appointed captain across all three formats if he is to consider a return. While no ODI captain was ever officially appointed when Babar reluctantly stepped down, Shan Masood is the current Test captain, having led the side in a three-match series in Australia.
The writing was on the wall for Afridi since Naqvi refused to back him at a press conference in Lahore on Sunday, saying at the time a final decision would be made after Pakistan's training camp with the military ended. But it appears there has been a rapid loss of faith in Afridi's leadership abilities when he led Pakistan in one series and his PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars. Pakistan lost the T20I series against New Zealand 4-1, and Qalandars won just one game out of ten and finished bottom of the PSL table.
However, Afridi will feel hard done by, given Naqvi's comments that Pakistan wanted a long-term captain they could back, rather than knee-jerk appointments after a handful of games, given that is effectively precisely what has happened to him. Part of the appeal of appointing Afridi, still only 23, as captain was he could learn on the job and continue in the role for an extended period of time, and he was considered the favourite to take on the ODI leadership as well.
And while Babar's demand to be anointed Test captain is not understood to be a deal-breaker for the former captain, it does place significant pressure on Masood's position as red-ball skipper. He, too, has led the side for just one series, with Pakistan losing all three games in Australia. However, a more aggressive approach as captain was widely seen as a contributing factor to Pakistan running the hosts close in two of the three Tests despite injuries rendering the bowling attack weakened.
The flip-flopping surrounding the captaincy question strikes at the heart of the PCB's state of proceedings over the past 18 months. They have been through multiple chief selectors, as well as selection committees with varying degrees of power, since the start of 2023. Zaka Ashraf's decision to sack Mickey Arthur and Grant Bradburn, and twist Babar's arm into resigning just before a key tour of Australia was the highest profile one, but in truth, the chaos has been bubbling for longer than that.
The current selection committee's arrangement is also fairly distinct. There are four selectors - Wahab Riaz, Asad Shafiq, Abdul Razzaq and Mohammad Yousuf - with no chief selector. They will be joined by the Pakistan captain and coach - both yet to be appointed - and a data analyst. Selection decisions will be made by vote, with 4-3 majorities carrying the day.
As things stand, Pakistan have been through negotiations with several candidates for the role of head coach without being able to reach a deal. Shane Watson, Mike Hesson and Adam Voges are among those who eventually turned them down, while initially promising discussions with Luke Ronchi have also meted away. The PCB is currently understood to be in talks with Jason Gillespie and Gary Kirsten, with no sign of a breakthrough yet.
Pakistan's next series, which Babar is expected to lead his side out for once more, comes against New Zealand in April, with the two sides playing five T20Is.

Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000