LAHORE: Amazed by a number of tactical decisions made by Babar Azam for the Asia Cup Super Four match against India, former captain Pakistan Intikhab Alam has urged the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to appoint pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi as captain for the forthcoming ICC World Cup.

“I have already expressed my views about Babar’s role as captain. It is also unfair to make him lead the national team in all three formats,” Intikhab said while talking to Dawn on Saturday.

“Against India [in the Asia Cup Super Four], the decisions of bowling first and picking [fast bowling all-rounder] Faheem Ashraf in place of [slow left-arm spinner] Mohammad Nawaz were surprising for me.”

In the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup, Pakistan could only win against Bangladesh while losing to both India and Sri Lanka. As a result, Babar and his men finished a poor fourth in the six-nation contest due to lower net run-rate (-1.283) than that of Bangladesh (-0.463).

“Look, the selection committee is not at fault here as picking the team [playing eleven] on the tour is the responsibility of captain and coach. I want to know if it was Babar’s decision to bowl first against India or a joint call. Seeing the [Colombo] pitch even on a TV screen indicated it was batting-friendly and when you have one reserve day too there was no wisdom in offering batting to the opponent team,” Intikhab said of the Super Four match between the arch-rivals which Pakistan lost by a whopping 228 runs after India posted a mammoth 356-2.

“How can Faheem replace Nawaz with a speed of just 125kph whereas a spinner could play a better role against India,” he wondered.

The former Test captain thought changing the captain would benefit the team ahead of the World Cup starting in India on Oct 5.

“I will not blame Babar, rather I will blame those who made him captain for three formats. Still we have time to change a captain for the World Cup and [to me] Shaheen is the best available choice,” reckoned Intikhab.

Intikhab also endorsed former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga’s criticism over holding the Asia Cup matches in Colombo, where persistent rainy weather marred the action, and not staging the games in Hambantota.

To a question, he said it was highly surprising that Pakistan team director Mickey Arthur was commanding the squad from London.

“It is totally unfair, and never happened in the past with any cricket country,” Intikhab emphasised.

“His hand-picked coaching team carries no profile. Morne Morkel has been appointed as Pakistan team’s bowling coach with no impressive coaching profile.”

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2023

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