Sarfaraz Ahmed removed as captain in Test, T20 formats due to 'drop in overall form'

Updated October 18, 2019

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Wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed has been dropped from Pakistan squad that will tour Australia in the coming months. — AFP/File
Wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed has been dropped from Pakistan squad that will tour Australia in the coming months. — AFP/File

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has removed Sarfaraz Ahmed as skipper in the Test and Twenty20 formats due to "drop in overall form", a press release issued by the cricketing body said on Friday.

Batsman Azhar Ali will replace the wicket-keeper to captain the team in the upcoming Tests against Australia as well as the World Test Championship in the 2019-20 season.

Similarly, batsman Babar Azam will lead Pakistan in T20 matches against Australia and until the 2020 T20 World Cup, which is a year away.

Ahmed has also been "left out of both formats", the statement added, citing the wicketkeeper's poor form "which has also affected his confidence". There has been no announcement regarding changes in the squad for one-day internationals.

The decision comes weeks after Pakistan — the top-ranked T20 team — was whitewashed by an inexperienced Sri Lanka side in Lahore.

Reports regarding Ahmed's removal from the position of skipper have been circulating since Pakistan's dismal performance in the Cricket World Cup earlier this year.

Read: 5 takeaways from Pakistan’s luckless World Cup campaign

PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani termed the decision to remove Ahmed as "difficult", but one that had to be taken "in the best interest of the team".

"It has been an honour to lead Pakistan at the highest level," Ahmed was quoted as saying in the press release. "I want to thank all my colleagues, coaches and selectors who have helped me in this journey.

"My good wishes are with Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and the Pakistan cricket team, and I hope they will continue to grow stronger and stronger."

Ali, who made his Test debut in 2010, termed it the "biggest honour" to lead the team in the longest format and said: "I feel humbled, excited and privileged, and with the support of the team, look forward to justifying the faith that has been entrusted upon me for the World Test Championship."

He credited Ahmed for doing an "excellent job in transforming raw talent into experienced players" and added: "I now look forward to inspiring those skilful players in our endeavours to collectively achieve our World Test Championship objectives and beyond.

"I am not only targeting wins, but also aim to provide opportunities to players to grow in stature and express themselves so that Pakistan cricket can resume its [top position]. I have always played my cricket the hard way but in a fair manner, and will ensure I continue to uphold the spirit of cricket and enhance the image of the team and the country."

Ali said that he feels he is "better prepared now to take up captaincy". "When I was told yesterday, I had already been mentally prepared after consulting with elders and senior cricketers since this was something that had been rumoured for the past three to four months."

"It wasn't difficult for me. I took this as a great opportunity."

Azhar Ali speaks to reporters in Lahore, on Friday. — AP
Azhar Ali speaks to reporters in Lahore, on Friday. — AP

Speaking of his targets as a captain and how he envisions to lead the side, the batsman said: "Wins are usually an emphasis and are strongly coveted by captains and for any team. Besides securing wins, my target will also involve obtaining players that can serve Pakistan for a long time."

"You have to prepare players to play in a fearless and positive manner. Winning is one thing, but building a good culture will be my top priority," said Ali.

"I have always prioritised Test cricket, because it is the best format of the game and a players skills are tested to the maximum. It shapes players into some of the best in the sport. I will see to it that our players prioritise Test cricket and focus more on red ball cricket because white ball cricket will take care of itself."

Azam, who is the number one batsman in the T20 format, declared that being named captain of the side is the "biggest thing that has happened to my career to date".

"I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities," he said. "Sarfaraz Ahmed has led the side in the shortest format by example and it is my responsibility to take forward his accomplishments so that we remain a consistent, attractive and powerful side."