Babar Azam quits as Pakistan captain across formats after forgettable World Cup campaign

Babar Azam on Wednesday stepped down as Pakistan’s captain in all formats, following his team’s dismal performance in the ongoing 2023 Cricket World Cup.

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Babar’s future as Pakistan skipper was in doubt when the Men in Green finished fifth in the World Cup, managing just four wins in nine matches.

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Babar’s strike rate in the World Cup was also under scrutiny, keeping a strike rate below 100 in most of the matches. Babar finished with 320 runs from nine matches, scoring four fifties.

“Today I am stepping down as Pakistan’s captain in all formats. It is a difficult decision but I think the time is right for this call,” Babar wrote in a statement on ‘X’.

New Zealand’s defeat of Sri Lanka during the World Cup series in Bengaluru meant that Pakistan had to beat England by a reasonable margin to have any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals. However, Pakistan defeated England by 93 runs in their last match.

Babar was heavily criticized for his team selection and many accused him of creating a coterie with the players he liked, including Imam ul Haq, Mohammed Nawaz, Shadab Khan to name a few.

With no ODIs scheduled in the near future, the PCB has not named a captain for the format.

“I am very grateful to the cricket board, stakeholders who saw in me that I can take this responsibility,” said Masood after his appointment.

“There are challenges, and red ball cricket is the toughest format. The onus is now not on the leader alone but on everyone to take the Pakistan red ball team forward, to create an identity, to prepare the kind of blueprint that would inspire our fans.” Pakistan lost five of their nine matches, including a shock defeat to Afghanistan in the World Cup, which brought Babar’s leadership under the scanner.

The 34-year-old Masood has featured in 30 Tests, scoring 1,597 runs, including four centuries and seven fifties but was overlooked in the Asia Cup and World Cup.

The PCB said Masood has been appointed captain till the end of the 2023-25 ​​ICC World Test Championship cycle.

His first assignment is a three-match Test series in Australia starting December 14.

Afridi’s first assignment as captain will be the five-match T20I series in New Zealand from January 12 to 21.

23-year-old Afridi has captained Lahore Qalandars to two Pakistan Super League titles in the past two years.

The PCB said that Pakistan’s captain in the ODI format will be announced in due course.

The board also confirmed when Babar met chairman Ashraf that he was relieved of the captaincy of white-ball formats only and told to lead Test matches, an offer he declined.

Experts and critics called for a change of guard and PCB management committee chief Zaka Ashraf brought Babar in for a post-mortem on the team’s performance.

Babar made it clear that he will support the new skipper in every possible way.

“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 enthusiasm. I would like to sincerely thank the Pakistan Cricket Board for entrusting me with this significant responsibility,” he said.

Ashraf, on his part, caused quite a stir when he issued a statement in the middle of the tournament that the squad selected for the World Cup was made on the orders of former chairman Inzamam ul Haq and skipper Babar.

He mentioned that a decision would be made at the end of the tournament and it was clear that Babar did not have PCB’s back.

During his tenure, Pakistan became the No. 1 in ODIs due to some solid performances at home on pitches against second tier teams from SENA countries and relatively weaker Asian teams.

“The joint effort of the players, the coaches and the management was the result of the point No. 1 in white-ball formats,” he said.

He was appointed captain in 2019 and admitted that he had highs and lows after he first received a call from PCB informing them of their decision to appoint him as the leader of the national team.

“Over the last four years, I have experienced many highs and lows on and off the field, but I have tried with passion and zeal to maintain Pakistan’s pride and respect in the world of cricket,” he said.

With PTI inputs

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