LAHORE        -   The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday sacked Sarfraz Ahmed as the national cricket team skipper across all formats while Azhar Ali and Babar Azam were named as new Test and T20 captains respectively.

The cricket board has taken this decision to Sarfraz Ahmed’s drop in overall form, which has also affected his confidence while the national side also humiliated by young Sri Lankan team, who inflicted 3-0 whitewash on the top-ranked T20 team.

Seventh-ranked Pakistan will play fifth-ranked Australia in two Tests in Brisbane (21-25 November) and Adelaide (29 November-3 December (d/n)) before hosting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for two Tests apiece. Pakistan are also scheduled to play three T20s each against Australia (3, 5 and 8 November) and Bangladesh before the curtain falls on their international domestic season in early February 2020.

The PCB has appointed Azhar Ali as Test captain, who is the second most successful batsman with 388 runs in four matches with his side Central Punjab leading the field with two wins in the ongoing four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He will captain Pakistan Test team for World Test Championship matches in the 2019-20 season.

Azhar has been a mainstay of Pakistan’s batting line-up since making his debut against Australia at Lord’s in 2010. The 34-year-old is regarded as Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan’s prodigy and has scored 5,669 runs with 15 centuries and 31 half-centuries in 73 Tests. He had an excellent tour of Australia last time when Pakistan were there in 2016-17, when he had scores of 5, 71, 205 not out, 43, 71 and 11.

His other scores against Australia in England and the UAE are 16, 42, 30, 51, 53, 30, 109, 100 not out, 18, 4, 15 and 64.

This means the 21st ranked batsman in the world has aggregated 938 runs in nine Tests against Australia, his second most after Sri Lanka (1156 runs in 14 Tests). Delighted with the new responsibility, Azhar said: “There is no bigger honour than to captain Pakistan cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game.”

The PCB also named Babar Azam as T20 captain of No 1 ranked side until next year’s ICC T20 World Cup Australia 2020, which is now exactly one year away. Babar has previously captained Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2012. He was vice-captain in the recently-concluded series against Sri Lanka and is presently captaining Central Punjab in the National T20 Cup, where he scored a 59-ball 102 on the opening day against Sindh.

Babar said he would carry forward the legacy of his predecessor under whom the team achieved the No 1 spot and help the team evolve into a “powerful side”. “To be named captain of the No 1 ranked side in the world is the biggest thing that has happened to my career to date. I am ready for this challenge and also willing to learn more in the process.

“I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities. Sarfraz Ahmed has led the side in the shortest format by example and it is my responsibility to take forward his accomplishments so that we remain a consistent, attractive and powerful side,” he added.

The outgoing skipper Sarfraz Ahmed said he was honoured to lead the side at the highest level. He also wished the new captains well for the future assignments. “It has been an honour to lead Pakistan at the highest level. I want to thank all my colleagues, coaches and selectors who have helped me in this journey. My good wishes are with Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and the Pakistan cricket team, and I hope they will continue to grow stronger and stronger,” he said.

After approving the appointments, PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said: “I want to congratulate Azhar Ali and Babar Azam on their elevations to the most coveted and prestigious jobs in cricket. It is a reward for their continued hard work in strive for excellence and I am sure they, like their predecessors, will make the country proud with their performance, leadership and sportsmanship.

“It has been a difficult decision to drop Sarfaraz Ahmed, who has performed well as a player and a leader. But, his loss in form and confidence is visible and, in the best interest of the team, it has been decided to leave him out and provide him the opportunity to reflect and regroup himself and try to reclaim his form away from international cricket.

“Sarfaraz Ahmed’s contributions are second to none and being the gutsy cricketer and fighter that we all know he is, I have no doubts he will be back in Pakistan colours at some stage.

“The decision on vice-captaincy will be made closer to the series, whilst captaincy for the ODIs will be finalised in due course as the national team’s next assignment is scheduled from 4-9 July 2020 against the Netherlands in Amstelveen,” he added.