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Friday, May 24, 2024  
15 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

Babar Azam vows to make Pakistan world-beaters after regaining T20 captaincy

Former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi, whose daughter is married to Shaheen, surprised at Azam's return
Photo via Facebook/Babar Azam
Photo via Facebook/Babar Azam

Reappointed captain Babar Azam vowed to transform Pakistan into the best team in the world after replacing under-fire Shaheen Shah Afridi at the Twenty20 helm on Sunday.

Azam only stepped down as skipper in all formats in November after Pakistan crashed out of the 50-over World Cup in the first round in India.

However, Shaheen’s tenure as T20 captain was short-lived after overseeing a dispiriting 4-1 series loss to New Zealand in January.

“Our joint aim is to make this team the best in the world,” said Azam, who will seek out fast bowler Shaheen’s advice on the best way forward for the squad.

“As a captain, I have always valued his input and I will keep consulting him for important decisions. We must take advantage of his strategic understanding of the game.”

Shaheen said he stood firmly behind the experienced Azam.

“As a team player, it is my duty to back our captain, Babar Azam. I have played under his captaincy and have nothing but respect for him,” he said.

“I will try to help him both on and off the field. We are all one. Our aim is the same, to help Pakistan become the best team in the world.”

Following Azam’s decision to relinquish the captaincy last year, he was replaced by Shan Masood as Test skipper and by Shaheen in T20Is.

Former head coach Mickey Arthur was also replaced after the World Cup disaster by team director Mohammad Hafeez, under whom Pakistan suffered a 3-0 Test whitewash in Australia and the T20I series loss in New Zealand.

Pakistan will play five T20Is against New Zealand at home, followed by three in Ireland and four in England, before the World Cup in the United States and the West Indies in June.

Mohsin Naqvi, the new Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, announced changes to the board’s selection process this month in an effort to improve results before the tournament, making the captain and head coach part of the process.

“We have reorganised the selection committee with seven members but the different thing is that there will be no chairman,” Naqvi told a news conference, with each member to have “equal powers”.

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir has announced he will come out of retirement and all-rounder Imad Wasim has also reversed his decision to quit four months ago.

The squad is currently on a two-week training camp at an army base in Kakul.

Azam won 42 of his 71 T20Is as skipper from 2019, with 23 losses with six no-results, but was accused of favouring friends in team selection.

“We will have to see how this decision impacts Pakistan team’s performance, but I think Azam should be given the long-term captaincy,” former wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal told AFP.

“Azam is a serious captain, so I don’t think there will be any rift in the team.”

Former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi, whose daughter is married to Shaheen, was surprised at Azam’s return.

“I believe that if change was necessary, then (Mohammad) Rizwan was the best choice,” said Afridi on X.

“But since the decision has now been made, I offer my full support and best wishes to Team Pakistan and Babar Azam.”

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