Now Or Never For Pakistan Captain Bazar Azam

Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif is of the opinion that the clock is ticking on Bazar Azam’s tenure as current captain of the Pakistani XI. Former Pakistan wicketkeeper Latif thinks that Azam’s future as the ODI captain of Pakistan could well depend on how the side fares during their upcoming tour of West Indies.

If you check the odds at VegasBetting.com, Pakistan is -200 favorites to defeat England during their current best-of-three T20 series. Pakistan was blanked 3-0 by an England reserve side during a recently completed ODI series and Azam’s leadership skills were brought into question by his county’s cricket pundits.

Pakistan’s last long-term ODI captain was Sarfaraz Ahmed. He led the country into 50 matches from 2015-2019. Following the 2019 World Cup, both Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim were tried out as captain for two games apiece. Ultimately, the Pakistan Cricket Board made the choice to give the captaincy to Azam.

​​In his first nine matches after taking over the captaincy from Wasim in 2020, Pakistan has won four matches and lost four matches, with one match drawn.

Criticism Heating Up

With England’s top cricket stars forced to enter into COVID-19 protocols following an outbreak within the team, the English were forced to send out a side full of unproven youngsters led by Ben Stokes against Pakistan. The Pakistanis were overwhelmingly favored to easily capture the series. Instead, they took an embarrassing pratfall and dropped all three games during the match.

That setback only caused the criticism of Azam among former Pakistani cricket stars to ramp up, with many calling for Azam to resign the captaincy. There were a number of ex-Pakistan stars who were questioning Azam’s ability to lead, and Latif was among them.

“Babar Azam has the team’s support but not the support as far as performances are concerned in this [England ODI] series,” Latif told Cricket Pakistan. “They won their previous few series. Here they have given very bad performances but we will still give margin to Babar.

“This T20 series and the upcoming tour of the West Indies is crucial for Babar’s captaincy.”

Unless Pakistan turns in some impressive results in the England T20 series and while in the West Indies, Latif only expects the heat to be further turned up on Azam, perhaps to a temperature where it consumes his captaincy. They started on a positive note, winning the first T20 contest against the English by 31 runs.

“​​I think if it goes south, Babar might have to relinquish captaincy after the West Indies series in order to preserve his own performances,” Latif said. “I think he might be asked to or take the decision himself if they fail miserably in the series against West Indies.”

Blame Handed To Board

Latif feels that the Pakistan Cricket Board deserves to be criticized every bit as much as Azam for the indifferent results for the country under his captaincy.

“He [Babar Azam] is okay as the T20 captain and even in Tests,” Latif said. “The main problem is in the ODI format. We have to fix that.”

Latif is of the opinion that the board was too quick to assess the captaincies of Afeez and Wasim and to move on from both men. He also criticized the PCB for replacing Ahmed as captain following the 2019 Cricket World Cup, in which Pakistan finished fifth, failing to advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.

“The decision to remove Sarfaraz [Ahmed] from captaincy was wrong,” Latif said. Then they brought in Azhar Ali and then removed him as captain and that was also wrong. Then they couldn’t find any other captain because no one else has been a consistent performer.”

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