Babar Azam announced on Wednesday that he was stepping down as the Pakistan cricket captain in all formats.
He made the announcement on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), shortly after he met Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Interim Management Committee Chairman Zaka Ashraf in Lahore.
According to the PCB, Babar was asked to continue as Test captain after being relieved of the captaincy in white-ball cricket.
In his statement, Babar said, “I vividly remember the moment when I received the call from PCB to lead Pakistan in 2019. Over the past four years, I’ve experienced many highs and lows on and off the field but I wholeheartedly and passionately aimed to maintain Pakistan’s pride and respect in the cricket world.”
He said that reaching the number one spot in white-ball cricket was the result of the “collective efforts of players, coaches, and management but I’d like to express my gratitude to passionate Pakistan cricket fans for their unwavering support during this journey”.
“Today, I am stepping down as the captain of Pakistan in all formats. It’s a difficult decision but I feel it is a right time for this call. I will continue to represent Pakistan as a player in all three formats. I am here to support the new captain and the team with my experience and dedication,” he said.
“I want to express my sincere thanks to the Pakistan Cricket Board for entrusting me with this significant responsibility,” Babar concluded.
Although Babar did not mention a specific reason for his decision to step down, it comes after the team’s disastrous performance in the World Cup.
Meanwhile, the PCB said that Shan Masood was appointed Test captain while Shaheen Shah Afridi will lead the T20 side. Former Test captain Mohammad Hafeez was also appointed the team director following the PCB’s decision to change the portfolio of the coaching staff.
Babar’s meeting with Ashraf
Earlier today, Babar had met the PCB chief in Lahore. Footage aired on television had shown Babar’s car being hounded by fans and journalists as he left the PCB headquarters at the Gaddafi Stadium.
Shortly after Babar announced his decision to step down, the PCB issued a press release regarding the meeting with Ashraf which was described as “cordial”.
“Babar was asked to continue as Test captain while he has been relieved of captaincy in white-ball cricket for him to focus on one format.
“After consultation with his family, Babar decided to step down and PCB stands behind his decision,” the statement said.
The statement quoted Ashraf as saying Babar was “truly a world-class player and we want him to continue to thrive as a player”.
“He is one of the best batters Pakistan has ever produced. He is our asset, and we will continue to support him. His batting prowess is a testament to his dedication and skill. He is a role model for the present generation,” the PCB chief said.
“We want to see him grow as a great batter and now without his additional burden of the captaincy, he can focus more on his performances to reach even greater heights. We respect his decision and will continue to back him,” he said.
The statement also said the board had “changed the portfolio of the entire coaching staff”.
“All coaches will continue to work in National Cricket Academy while PCB will announce the new coaching staff in due course for the upcoming series in Australia and New Zealand,” the statement said.
‘End of an era’
Reacting to Babar’s decision, Shaheen — the new T20 captain — said, “Under your exemplary leadership, it’s been a privilege to witness true teamwork and camaraderie. Your forefront leadership and commitment to team unity and collective success are commendable.”
Muhammad Rizwan called the batsman “definitely one of the greatest batsmen Pakistan has ever seen”.
“Your honesty, love, integrity, thoughts and efforts for Pakistan as the captain are the things to look up to. May you continue to shine for Pakistan,” he said.
“Best of luck for the new chapter in your career,” said Shadab Khan. “I am sure you will continue to shine bright,” he said while congratulating the new Test and T20 captains.
“It has been an honour to have represented Pakistan under your captaincy,” said Iftikhar Ahmad.
“I’ve been part of many highs and many lows during that period but your resilience and determination always came on top. Looking forward to seeing you score heavily for Pakistan and that too from the best seat of non-striking end,” he said.
“Thank you for your meritorious services as Pakistan captain. You inspired the whole next generation of cricketers with your leadership, grace, talent and performances. Hope you will continue to shine and rule as the journey is far from over!” said Shahid Afridi.
“You did an amazing job Babar. Taking the Pakistan team to the number one spot is an achievement of immense pride,” said Wahab Riaz
“You still have a long way to go, lots more to achieve for Pakistan as a player. Best wishes!!” he said.
Former all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez appreciated Babar’s services as captain.
“Surely your hunger to get more runs contributed to winning matches for the team. Stay healthy and blessed,” he said.
Ex-cricketer Saeed Ajmal thanked Babar for his services as captain and for “taking Pakistan’s ODI team to the number one spot”.
“I hope that you continue to score runs for Pakistan even more than before. Keep smiling and stay fit. The team needs you at your best,” he said.
“End of an era for Pakistan,” the International Cricket Council (ICC) said.
Former captain Younis Khan and former pacers Wahab Riaz and Sohail Tanvir had met Ashraf on Tuesday as the PCB began its inquest on Pakistan’s performance at the World Cup and plans for the upcoming Test series against Australia.
It was learnt by Dawn that the trio had advised Ashraf not to make wholesale changes ahead of the tour of Australia.
With ODI cricket not high on the agenda for the next years, the former players had also instructed the PCB chief to shift focus to red-ball cricket and it was also learnt that Younis might be offered a coaching assignment to groom youngsters in Karachi.
It should be recalled that earlier this week bowling coach Morne Morkel had become the first man to quit Pakistan’s backroom staff following the team’s failure to reach the World Cup semi-finals.