Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali on Friday announced he was retiring from Test cricket after the third and final Test match against England in Karachi.
The last match of the three-game series will begin in Karachi on Saturday.
With 7,097 runs in 96 matches at an average of 42.49, Ali is Pakistan’s fifth leading Test run-scorer after Younis Khan (10,099), Javed Miandad (8,832), Inzamam-ul-Haq (8,829) and Mohammad Yousuf (7,530), according to the PCB.
Azhar Ali also captained Pakistan in nine Tests in two separate tenures from 2016 till 2020.
“My heart and my mind felt that this is the right time and I would like to call it a day after this game [third Test],” said a visibly-low Azhar at a press conference while announcing the decision today.
Ali, however, noted that he was available for the final match of the unlimited-overs series against the English side.
“Every youngster has the wish to represent its national side and it was an honour for me to lead Pakistan in both formats — Tests and ODIs — but, every beginning has an end,” he said.
The ex-captain recounted that he had several good memories while playing for Pakistan. “I want to thank the PCB and selectors for supporting him. I must name Mohsin Hasan Khan who selected me for the first time and my first captain Shahid Afridi who also encouraged me throughout my career.”
“I retire from international cricket as a fulfilled cricketer who ticked most of the goals he had set for himself. Not many cricketers go on to lead their countries, and that I was able to captain Pakistan is a matter of great pride for me. From being a kid who started as a leg-spinner to becoming a mainstay in the Test batting line-up, I had the loveliest moments of my life that I will cherish forever,” he told reporters.
Later addressing a press conference, skipper Babar Azam heaped praise on Ali for his “great career” and services for Pakistan cricket.
“I congratulate him on his career and it has been inspiring for all of us. When we joined the team, he was a senior player and we learned from him. We have seen him perform really well in difficult situations.”
When asked whether Ali will play the final Test, the skipper said the final XI will be decided later today “so let’s wait”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja hailed Ali as “the most committed and loyal servant of Pakistan cricket”.
His grit and determination have been an inspiration for many young cricketers and he is a role model for up-and-coming cricketers, the PCB head said in a statement.
“While it is sad that Pakistan will not have a player of his experience in the dressing room to draw upon, it only reflects the circle of life. I hope to see Azhar continuing to play a role in the development of Pakistan cricket and sharing his vast knowledge and experience with budding cricketers.”
The former Test skipper retired from One-Day Internationals in 2018 — a year after helping Pakistan win the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
In that tournament, Azhar’s contribution was instrumental in taking Pakistan to the final where he also scored 59 against arch-rivals India.