News of removal from Test team captaincy was received from media, Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali was appointed captain of the team a year ago. (File photo: AFP)

Pakistan’s Test captain Azhar Ali has denied meeting with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials about stepping down, saying the news of his removal was coming from the media.

Talking to media in Karachi, Azhar Ali, captain of Central Punjab in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, said that he was not aware of removal from the leadership of the Test team. “The news of my removal from the captaincy is only being heard from the media and there has been no discussion with the PCB officials in this regard,” he said. “I try my best not to listen to such things and it is better to focus on my game,” the national team captain said. Asked about being removed from the Test team leadership, he said: “It’s very difficult for me to talk about this issue. I can’t say anything until there is a regular discussion with the board.” It may be recalled that this news came out a week ago that Muhammad Rizwan is likely to be made the captain of the Test team in place of Azhar Ali by the PCB.

The cricnfo report said that there was talk of handing over the leadership of the team to a young player in the PCB. According to the report, Mohammad Rizwan is a strong candidate for the captaincy of the Test team who is likely to lead the team in a tour of New Zealand in December. The report claimed that the PCB had confirmed that Azhar Ali’s one-year performance was being reviewed and that Waseem Khan, the board’s chief executive, had also met Azhar Ali.

He had said that a final decision on the removal of Azhar Ali and the appointment of a new captain had not been taken yet, however, the PCB chairman was scheduled to meet Azhar Ali in the next 10 days. It may be recalled that the PCB had announced on October 18, 2019 that Azhar Ali would replace Sarfraz Ahmed and Babar Azam would be appointed as the captain of the T20 team.

Sarfraz Ahmed was removed from the captaincy before the tour of Australia last year, after which world number one Pakistan lost 0-3 at home against Sri Lanka in the T20. PCB chairman Ehsan Mani described the decision to remove Sarfraz Ahmed as “difficult” and said it was “in the wider interest of the team”. Sarfraz Ahmed, who was removed from the captaincy, said that it was an honor for him to lead Pakistan. He wished Azhar Ali and Babar Azam all the best.

Azhar Ali did not perform well after becoming the captain of the team and suffered his worst setback in the first series against Australia, but he played a leading innings in a rain-affected match against England in August this year. Scored a century and the match ended in a draw. After the defeat against Australia, Azhar Ali had said that there was no fear of losing the leadership and no one including the captain could stay in the team without performance.