LAHORE: Pakistan one day cricket team’s below-par show against England in the on-going five-match ODI series has earned it widespread criticism from fans and critics alike.
However, while the majority of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) think tank members have given a thumbs down to skipper Azhar Ali for failing to motivate the team, they believe that the current set of players and the team management should be given at least six more months before they should come under the scanner for a possible revamp.
Dawn learnt on authority here on Friday that chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, who selected the squad for England ODI series, has conveyed to the PCB that it would be premature to bring major changes in the team and it should be given a further six months to prove their mettle.
Pakistan, languishing at a poor ninth spot in world ODI rankings, have lost all four ODIs to England so far under Azhar’s leadership and have failed to put up a fight which is in stark contrast to the handsome performance put up by Pakistan Test team earlier on the tour when they drew 2-2 with the hosts under Misbah-ul-Haq’s captaincy.
According to sources close to the PCB think tank, wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed has been favoured to take over from Azhar. Sarfraz is Pakistan’s T20 captain and will lead the team against England in the one-off match at Manchester on Sept 7.
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“After the tour we should sit down to analyse the performance of the team and the performances of each captain (Misbah, Azhar and Sarfraz) in different formats and then we should decide to make any change,” a PCB official told Dawn.
“Sarfraz is the only available choice in place of Azhar and though it is not an ideal choice for us, we have no other suitable candidate for the ODI captaincy in sight,” the official said while speaking on condition of anonymity.
“All-rounder Imad Wasim is definitely a player who can be suitable for this post, but it will be premature to hand over such a big responsibility to him. However, if Sarfraz also fails to improve the ODI team’s performance, Imad is definitely the next candidate for PCB.”
Azhar has now led Pakistan in 24 ODIs during the past 14 months, losing 15 matches, winning eight and one ended in no result.
Interestingly, the official said the PCB had been expecting the below par show from the ODI team in England and is ready to give six months time to the newly inducted players and the team management to prove their potential.
However, the board is looking to relieve Azhar of the captaincy duties.
Meanwhile, Test discard wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, in a media talk on Friday, said that the responsibility of the sluggish performance in the ODI series should not only be put on the captain as the entire team is responsible for it.
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“It will be not the right solution to put all the responsibility of defeat on captain Azhar Ali as the entire team is responsible for the poor show against England,” Kamran said.
“You can’t win matches with a meager total of 250 on the board and we need big hitting players who can hit the ball powerfully,” he said. “We need lot of improvement at the grass roots level, especially at the club level cricket to produce good ODI players.”
In another interesting development, it was learnt that undisciplined players Umar Akmal is likely to return for the upcoming series against the West Indies in UAE in Oct-Nov.
A PCB official, while confirming the reports about young Akmal, ruled out any immediate return for the other undisciplined player, opening batsman Ahmad Shahzad who has been out of favour with the selectors of late.
“We have kept both Umar and Ahmed away from the team to teach them a lesson and to bring improvement in their attitude which had not exemplary in the past,” said the official.
“The PCB now expects both the players to change their attitude and play with more responsibility. They have also met chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq to assure him that there will be no further complains from their side in the future.”
In the first attempt the selectors may give Umar a chance against the West Indies and may be later Shahzad could come in too,” said the PCB official.
“There is also a proposal under consideration to send Ahmad Shehzad with Pakistan-A team to Zimbabwe this month as it could help the Board to assess his attitude and performance before taking a final decision about his comeback into the national team.”
The national selection committee is in the process to select the Pakistan A team for the tour of Zimbabwe, starting from Sept 23.
Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2016