Babar Azam back as Pakistan white-ball captain

Babar Azam in T20 WC 2022
Babar Azam in T20 WC 2022 (PC: X)

Over the last few days, Babar Azam’s reappointment as Pakistan’s white-ball captain became one of the worst-kept secrets in Pakistan cricket. On Sunday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed it via a statement on X.

The statement said: “Babar Azam appointed as white-ball captain.” It added: “Following unanimous recommendation from the PCB’s selection committee, Chairman PCB Mohsin Naqvi has appointed Babar Azam as white-ball (ODI and T20I) captain of the Pakistan men’s cricket team.”

Only a few months ago, after Pakistan failed to reach the semi-finals of the 50-over ICC World Cup, Babar had stepped down as captain. Shaheen Afridi was subsequently appointed as the men’s T20 skipper, while Shan Masood was given the charge of the Test side. Under Afridi, Pakistan lost the T20I series in New Zealand 1-4 earlier this year. The Pakistan Super League, too, didn’t go well for the fast bowler this term, with his team Lahore Qalandars finishing at the bottom of the table, losing eight matches out of 10.

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Then again, cricket appointments in Pakistan are usually influenced politically. Naqvi, who took charge of the PCB last month, is a sitting minister, at the helm of Interior and Narcotics Control. Changes have been made after Naqvi became the PCB chair. To start with, Mohammad Hafeez was sacked as Pakistan’s director of cricket. The former opener didn’t take kindly to his removal and lashed out at the decision, filing a lengthy post on his official X account.

An olive branch has been extended to fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who has come out of retirement to make himself available for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup.

Afridi’s removal after just one international series and Babar’s reappointment are very much in sync with how Pakistan cricket usually functions.

It is learnt that Pakistan’s newly-appointed seven-member selection committee that has four former Test players in Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq and Asad Shafiq, spoke to Babar before making the change. But it needs to seen if it works at the upcoming T20 World Cup. It is widely believed in Pakistan that Babar is no longer a popular captain. 

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