My decision to quit ODIs was correct: Azhar

Published August 30, 2019
LAHORE: Pakistan cricketers attend a practice session during the national team’s training camp at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.
—M. Arif/White Star
LAHORE: Pakistan cricketers attend a practice session during the national team’s training camp at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday. —M. Arif/White Star

LAHORE: Senior Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali on Thursday stood by his early decision of quitting One-day International cricket last year, while expressing unawareness about his prospects of getting back Test captaincy.

In a media talk during the national pre-season cricket camp here on Thursday, the 34-year-old Azhar, who quit playing ODIs early in 2018, to focus on Test cricket said: “My decision [to quit one-day cricket] was correct under that circumstances since I felt the [national] team didn’t needed in the limited-overs formats.”

Asked if the incoming selection committee will ask him to rescind that decision, Azhar responded: “It is premature to think about it because the selection committee is yet to be formed and a new coaching set up is being interviewed so this is not the right time to talk further on the subject.”

The performance of Azhar — who has amassed 5,669 runs in 73 Tests at 43.77 — has suffered at the highest level since he retired from the ODI arena. In eight matches, the right-hander has made 467 runs while averaging a modest 31.31 with just two significant innings — 134 and 81 against New Zealand in the UAE — and struggled against Australia (in the UAE) and on the tour of South Africa.

The overall performance of Azhar when he was also playing ODI cricket was satisfactory because he made 15 centuries and 31 half-centuries during his Test career in that span.

Answering a query that his name was in the circulation as next Test captain as the PCB is keen on reducing the workload of current all-format Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Azhar said because he had heard nothing officially in that regard, so, he would not comment on it.

Asked to explain as to why Pakistan are languishing at seventh in the ICC Test team rankings after being No.1 for a while in 2016, Azhar pointed out the team was bound to struggle with the retirements of senior stalwarts Younis Khan and the then Test skipper Misbah-ul-Haq in 2017.

Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali addresses reporters at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.—White Star
Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali addresses reporters at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.—White Star

“One cannot expect the replacements of those legends replicating them both in terms of experience and class. Younis and Misbah did wonders for Pakistan in Test cricket. But hopefully with the passage of time, our [Test] performance as a team would improve.”

He said the decision of holding the ongoing camp is a good step because it would help players to put up better performances in both international and domestic cricket during the upcoming season.

He also hailed the decision of the PCB of revamping domestic cricket setup by having six provincial teams instead of the previous formula of 16 regional sides while adding the initiative will make domestic cricket more competitive.

Commenting on the sensational innings played by Ben Stokes against Australia in the third Ashes Test to seal an unlikely England victory by one wicket at Headingley, Azhar remarked: “He [Stokes] is a quality player and currently enjoying the best phase of his international career. Such players come on the scene after many years. England can’t claim they have more quality players like him.”

In the meantime, fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has been ruled out from the ongoing pre-season national training camp with dengue fever, while opener Fakhar Zaman is on the injury-list.

“Shaheen was admitted to a local hospital yesterday [Wednesday] and diagnosed with dengue fever. The specialists are monitoring his condition,” a PCB media release stated on Thursday.

“On the other hand, Fakhar has yet to resume training in ongoing the camp due to a right knee injury for which he underwent an MRI on Wednesday. His scans will now be examined by the PCB Medical Advisory Panel, following which decision on his participation in the camp will be made.”

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2019

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