ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s cricket chiefs Monday named batsman Azhar Ali as the national side’s new one-day international captain, despite the fact he has not made the 50-over team in more than two years.
The 30-year-old replaces Misbah-ul-Haq, who retired from ODIs following Pakistan´s World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual champions Australia.
Ali has played just 14 ODIs, the most recent in January 2013, when he contributed two with the bat as Pakistan beat arch-rivals India by 85 runs at Kolkata´s Eden Gardens.
He was not even included in the final 15-man World Cup squad, but Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Shaharyar Khan insisted he had proved himself in the domestic Pentangular Cup.
“Azhar Ali has been appointed captain because of his leadership skills, team spirit and character,” Khan told reporters.
“I know Azhar Ali was not in the team in the last two years but his performance in the pentangular series proved that he deserves to be the captain.”
Ali was also named as vice-captain for the Test side, which Misbah will continue to lead, while big-hitting allrounder Shahid Afridi stays on as Twenty20 skipper.
Wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed was named vice-captain for both ODIs and T20s, a move that appears to cement his place in the side.
The 27-year-old was left out for the early matches of the World Cup but when he was finally called up, he responded with some dazzling glovework and Pakistan´s first century in the tournament since 2007 in the last group game against Ireland.
Misbah led the side in 87 of his 162 ODIs, winning 45 of them, and has been a beacon of dogged stability in the often-turbulent world of Pakistani cricket in recent years.
Ali acknowledged he had a hard act to follow.
“It´s a huge responsibility and I hope that all players will support me. I salute him (Misbah-ul-Haq), the way he served and the way he played. His services are unforgettable,” he said.
“It is a very difficult task to replace him and it (Misbah´s departure) will create a huge gap especially in one-day cricket.”
With Afridi also bowing out of the 50-over game, Pakistan face a period of rebuilding in the coming years, with the batting in particular in need of improvement after some shaky performances at the World Cup.