What Pakistanis think about Azhar Ali as their new ODI captain

March 30, 2015

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Azhar Ali last played an ODI in 2013.—AFP
Azhar Ali last played an ODI in 2013.—AFP

This letter was written to the PCB Chairman by The Boys in Green, Pakistan's largest online cricket fan group.


Dear Shaharyar Sb,

We hope this letter finds you well.

Firstly we would like to congratulate you on Pakistan's heartwarming performance in the ICC World Cup 2015. Even though the team could not go further than the quarterfinals, we believe that they put in tremendous effort in Australia and made fans believe in them once again. It was a performance to cherish from Misbah, Sarfraz, and all of the fast bowlers.

Before we go on, I would like to briefly introduce Boys in Green ("BiG") and explain the purpose of this letter.

BiG is a Facebook group comprising of Pakistan cricket fans, which was established in 2011. Over the past four years, we have grown significantly and currently have over 10,000 members, all of whom are passionate followers of the Pakistan cricket team. We pride ourselves for being the most popular online Pakistan cricket fan group.

You have just officially announced Azhar Ali as the new captain of ODIs. Along with that, you also announced that Sarfraz Ahmed will be vice captain across all three formats of the game.

Also read: To our heroes — of past and future

While you were deliberating over choices for the next ODI captain, we conducted a poll on our Facebook page to find out who Pakistan cricket fans thought should be leading the team in ODIs.

If you feel it is worth knowing how Pakistani fans feel about their new captain, read on to find out.

Poll Results

We put up the following four players as candidates for ODI captaincy:

  • Mohammad Hafeez
  • Azhar Ali
  • Wahab Riaz
  • Sarfraz Ahmed

Over 1,000 respondents made their pick and as per the results, Mohammad Hafeez was the most favourite choice. Only 1.1 per cent people considered Azhar as the right ODI captain.

Here is a brief summary of our assessment of the four candidates:

Mohammad Hafeez:

Hafeez was not only an experienced campaigner, he had under his belt the experience of captaining the national unit in T20s, while serving as Misbah's deputy in ODIs and Tests.

He has also successfully led domestic teams in Pakistan, and his recent outing in the Champions League as the captain of Lahore Lions was exemplary. We believed that with Misbah, Afridi, and Younis no longer representing Pakistan in ODIs, the inclusion of Hafeez into the side as a senior member would bring some solidity, balance, and much-needed experience.

The majority of our respondents agreed with that. It is strange that you thought someone who last played an ODI in 2013 was better suited than Hafeez.

Sarfraz Ahmed:

Sarfraz Ahmed is an exceptional talent who will serve Pakistan for many years in the future. At this stage, he seemed to be the best candidate for vice captaincy across all formats, and we were glad you have made just that announcement.

Read on: A hero's welcome for Sarfraz as Pakistan team returns

Sarfraz was captain of the Pakistan U19 team which won the World Cup in 2006. It is a good move to groom him under the wings of Misbah, Hafeez, and Afridi in the three formats of the game – a solid investment with the potential of giving Pakistan a future captain.

Wahab Riaz:

Wahab Riaz was in the talks of captaincy too. He is Pakistan's new superstar; our biggest performer in the World Cup and an overnight hero.

Notwithstanding his recent improvements, we believed it best to leave Wahab a free bird for now; allow him to concentrate on his bowling at this time. He has just turned the corner as a player and not too long ago, even his inclusion in the side was criticised.

See: That Wahab spell — A nation's faith in pace restored

Making him captain based on a handful of good games might not have been the best idea. And again, we are glad you did not make that mistake.

Azhar Ali:

Azhar Ali is not even a regular ODI player for Pakistan. He is undoubtedly one of our best Test batsmen at the moment, but sir, he is just not suited for ODIs.

The World Cup showed us that Pakistan's batting in ODIs is far behind that of the rest of the world. We require modern aggressive batsmen with rich repertoires of shots.

How Pakistan is going to post 300-plus totals in ODIs with batsmen like Azhar Ali in the middle is beyond our imagination.

We believe that Azhar Ali cannot even find a place in Pakistan's ODI playing XI as a batsman, let alone as a captain.

What the plan should have been

Based on the poll results, here is what the PCB might have been better off doing by way of a gradual succession plan:

1. Appoint Hafeez as Pakistan's ODI captain.
2. Appoint Sarfraz as Pakistan's vice captain across all three formats.
3. Have an open discussion with Misbah, Hafeez and Afridi about the future. Request them to groom Sarfraz to the best of their abilities.
4. Work with a timeline in mind, and the plan of appointing Sarfraz as captain across all formats in a year's time, when Misbah and Afridi retire from Tests and T20s respectively.

We have only Pakistan's best interests at heart, and we hope that even if you have already made your decision for now, you will use this input in making better-informed decisions for Pakistan cricket in the future.

Yours sincerely,
The Boys in Green Administration