Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Babar Azam Wednesday announced stepping down as the skipper of the national side from all formats, ending his years-long stint in the leading position, following a humiliating World Cup campaign.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has appointed Shan Masood as Test captain, while Shaheen Afridi has been tasked with leading the T20 format of the national team.
The now-former skipper was under fire for several months after Pakistan failed to perform in the Asia Cup and continued the same momentum into the World Cup — where they crashed out before reaching the semis.
"Today, I am stepping down as the captain of Pakistan in all formats. It's a difficult decision but I feel it is [the] right time for this call," Babar said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.
"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," he noted.
Babar made the major announcement just moments after he met PCB Management Committee Chairman Zaka Ashraf at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium, where, sources told Geo News, he was offered to remain the team's skipper in Tests, but he refused.
Recalling the first time he was appointed as captain for the white-ball format, Babar said he "vividly" remembers the moment when he got a call from the PCB to lead the national side.
"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.
Babar, despite being just 29 years old, has had an illustrious career, and he remained the top-ranked ODI batter for more than two years. The ex-skipper was the only batter to achieve the top three positions across all formats.
The batter said reaching the number 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," he said in the statement.
The skipper also expressed his "sincere thanks" to the cricket board for entrusting him with this significant responsibility.
Babar was appointed white-ball captain in 2019 and as Test skipper in 2020, but the Green Shirts have not won any ICC or Asia Cup titles under his leadership.
Meanwhile, an official statement issued following the meeting said the PCB chief and Babar had a “cordial meeting” to discuss various aspects and the World Cup performance.
“Babar was asked to continue as Test captain, while he has been relieved of captaincy in white-ball cricket for him to focus on one format,” the statement added.
After consultation with his family, Babar decided to step down and PCB stands behind his decision, the PCB said.
“PCB respects his decision and continues to support him as a player.”
In the statement, Ashraf described Babar as truly a world-class player, saying the cricket board wanted him to continue to thrive as a player.
"He is one of the best batters Pakistan has ever produced. He is our asset, and we will continue to support him [...] We want to see him grow as a great batter and now without his additional burden of the captaincy, he can focus more on his performances," Ashraf said.
Meanwhile, the board has also made changes to the portfolio of coaching staff.
"All coaches will continue to work in the National Cricket Academy," the PCB said while highlighting that the new coaching staff for the upcoming series in Australia and New Zealand will be announced soon.
Although the Pakistan team went into the World Cup ranked as the top side, they failed to prove their mettle and crashed out of the tournament in the group stage.
They created multiple unwanted records as the team lost four consecutive matches and five overall in the mega event, for the first time in Pakistan's history.
Other than that, Babar's performance as a batter was not according to his standards as the right-handed batter only managed to amass 320 runs in nine World Cup matches at a 40.00 average with a strike rate of 82.90.
It must be noted that the World Cup 2023 was Azam's fifth tournament as a captain after the 2021 and 2022 T20 World Cup and 2022 and 2023 Asia Cup where the failed win to bag any silverware.