Babar’s imminent return as captain to come at cost of dressing room stability

Published March 30, 2024
ABBOTTABAD: Pakistan players jog during a training session at the Pakistan Military Academy on Friday.—courtesy PCB
ABBOTTABAD: Pakistan players jog during a training session at the Pakistan Military Academy on Friday.—courtesy PCB

LAHORE: While Babar Azam is all but set to return as Pakistan captain, his imminent reappointment may hurt the national side’s dressing room.

It has already been volatile since Babar stepped down from the post after Pakistan dismal show in the Asia Cup and the 50-over World Cup last year, with Shaheen Shah Afridi replacing him as the Twenty20 captain and Shan Masood assuming the role as the team’s Test skipper.

Both, as Dawn understands, were kept in the dark by the national selection committee — recently “reorganised” by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Mohsin Naqvi — as it pondered over who to appoint as the next captain of the national team before agreeing upon Babar’s name on Friday.

Dawn learnt on authority that the PCB has offered Babar the captaincy of all three formats, but the batter will have his own set of demands before accepting it, given how the board has worked in the last few months.

Babar’s return would mean Shan and Shaheen’s respective Test and T20 international captaincy stints would stay limited to just one series each and the PCB’s ignorance towards the duo’s position as a stakeholder in the situation may cost it the Pakistan dressing room’s stability.

According to sources, many in PCB believe that the organisation has made a mistake by not keeping Shaheen in the loop over captaincy and by just informing the pacer about its decision to bring Babar back as skipper.

“As both Shaheen and Babar are not on one-page for the last few months, the decision of appointing Babar without taking Shaheen into confidence may affect the unity within the national team as the fast bowler also has a good number of players supporting him,” sources close to the situation told Dawn.

During nearly three years of Babar’s reign as Pakistan captain senior players Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir had fell out of the selectors’ favour and their chances of returning to the team were low.

Both were openly critical of Babar’s approach as captain and were vocal about it on national television.

All-rounder Imad and pacer Amir, however, were brought back into the fore by Mohsin after calling off their international retirement recently and it is understood that both will be on Pakistan’s squad for the T20 World Cup, which is set to be held in the United States and the West Indies in June. However, with Babar as captain, things may get tricky.

“… the expected selection of pacer Mohammad Amir and all-rounder Imad Wasim in the national team, after they had withdrawn their retirement from international cricket recently may not make Babar Azam happy,” the sources added.

After his confirmation as Pakistan captain, Babar will also become a part of the selection committee, which comprises four former Test players in Asad Shafiq, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq along with data analyst Bilal Afzal.

The vacant place in what is supposed to be a seven-member committee is that of the Pakistan head coach, a role for which as well the PCB is looking for personnel.

According to the job advertised on the careers page of the PCB website, the board is looking for separate coaches for the Test and white-ball formats and as it emerged on Friday, former South African batter Gary Kirsten and ex Australian pacer Jason Gillespie are leading the run for the posts.

As many as 29 probables are currently attending a fitness training camp organised by the PCB at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, Abbotabad. The camp is being held as the side’s preparation for the upcoming five-match T20 series against New Zealand.

After hosting the BlackCaps, Pakistan will visit Ireland and England in May, before flying to Dallas in the US to play their opening T20 World Cup game against the hosts.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2024

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