Pakistan maintains Azhar Ali as captain of the ODI team for the upcoming series against the West Indies, a decision that surprised most followers just like his initial appointment at the helm was. The team is languishing at ninth place in the ODI rankings, a stark contrast to their status as the top team in cricket’s longest format, raising questions over Pakistan’s strategy and leadership in the format. The announcement was made following reports that suggested that Ali may be asked to step down in the wake of a dismal run that has seen the team lose to Bangladesh and going down to England in a manner befitting a second-string squad, especially after the high of levelling a hard-fought Test series against the same opposition just weeks earlier.
Pakistan has long suffered in cricket’s shorter formats and their elevation in Test rankings comes not just on the back of experience, but stability at the helm and putting to good use their strengths and weaknesses. However, the same cannot be said about the team’s ODI line-up. Long gone are the days when the team used to play attacking cricket and while the rest of the world has moved on from attacking to overly aggressive, Pakistan has taken steps in the opposite direction. Bursts of aggression have only taken the team so far, and the opposition has exploited the aspect. An inconsistent selection pattern, together with a habit of giving chances to tried and tested players over and over again, mean Pakistan look like a lost soul when they don the coloured jerseys. Ali may have been given another chance but in the short period of time, he has been at the helm; he has struggled and looked clueless on the field. Some critics even question his place in the ODI playing-eleven. But the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) clearly believes in giving the 31-year-old another chance. The West Indies will play attacking cricket and are the current World T20 champions. Ali’s skills will be put to test and so will the PCB’s faith. The one positive aspect of the decision is that the management is not looking to experiment. We will have to wait and see the fruits of that decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2016.