Pakistan cricket's season of U-turns continues with Babar Azam's comeback as captain

Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi's stint as skipper ends after one series loss

Babar Azam returns as Pakistan's white-ball captain. EPA
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Change seems to be the only constant in Pakistan cricket as star batsman Babar Azam returned as the white-ball captain ahead of the T20 World Cup, replacing Shaheen Afridi.

Afridi’s stint as Twenty20 captain lasted just one series as a poor campaign in Pakistan Super League as skipper of Lahore Qalandars seems to have cost him his national team throne.

Azam stepped down as leader from all formats last year after Pakistan failed to make it to the semi-finals of the 50-over World Cup in India. But under Afridi’s leadership Pakistan lost the T20 series in New Zealand 4-1.

New chairman of the Pakistan board Mohsin Naqvi rang the changes as Afridi endured a miserable PSL in which the Qalandars won just one out of 10 league games and finished last in the tournament.

"Following unanimous recommendation from the PCB's selection committee, chairman PCB [Mohsin] Naqvi has appointed Azam as white-ball (T20Is and ODIs) captain of the Pakistan cricket team," the board announced.

Former head coach Mickey Arthur was also replaced after the ODI World Cup, with Mohammad Hafeez coming in as team director. However, the team still slumped to a 3-0 Test whitewash in Australia and the T20I series loss in New Zealand.

Azam's return comes at an interesting time with a few familiar names making themselves available again following a change in the power structure in the Pakistan board.

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir had announced he will come out of retirement and all-rounder Imad Wasim also reversed his decision to retire four months ago. Both enjoyed a successful PSL 2024 campaign and will be serious contenders to make it to Pakistan's T20 World Cup squad in the Caribbean and the US, venues where both players have extensive T20 experience.

Pakistan’s next international assignment is a five-match T20 series against New Zealand at home, starting on April 18. Pakistan are also due to play three T20s against Ireland and four against England before the T20 World Cup in the US and the West Indies begins on June 2.

Updated: March 31, 2024, 11:36 AM