KARACHI: On March 15, 2017 Pakistan Cricket Board chief selector Inzamamul Haq stood in front of media personnel at Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium and hammered the final nail in the coffin of former ODI captain Azhar Ali’s career.
The year 2017 hasn’t been kind to the right-hand batsman, who led the side for almost two years in the 50-over-format. For him, it all started during the ill-fated tour of Australia, where his lack of leadership skills was exploited. Leading the Men in Green in three ODIs, he lost all of them — with Pakistan’s only victory of the series coming when all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez stood as the stand-in skipper.
After the poor run Down Under, everyone — supporters and officials — wanted a head on spike to serve as a scapegoat for the side’s shortcomings, and the captain drowned with the ship intact. He announced his resignation from the post just before the start of the second season of Pakistan Super League, and then failed to feature in a single match during the tournament for Lahore Qalandars – a side which he had captained in the previous edition.
However, what was really disturbing to witness was Azhar’s resignation from the vice-captaincy of Pakistan’s Test squad. He was widely touted as the next capable, calm, and cool personality to lead the national side after 42-year-old Misbahul Haq retires from international cricket. Now, the former number one ranked side in Tests is without an heir apparent.
He has provided Pakistan with plenty of fond memories, especially dressed in all-white. His triple century against the West Indies in the first day-night Test is one such recollection. Another would be his double-ton against Australia in Melbourne. But the best would be hitting the match-winning six against England at the Oval in London which effectively drew the series 2-2.
Meanwhile, as Inzamam was announcing Azhar’s omission from the limited-overs side to tour the West Indies, the 32-year-old batsman scored a century in the practice match during the team’s training camp. Answering critics might have become a habit for the Lahore-born, since he amassed more than 1,000 runs in 31 innings as captain.
Unlike many others, he never blamed his batting position for his performances, coming wherever the team needed him to play. So, even though he has now been pushed to the fringes of Pakistan cricket, it is highly likely that he would return in the future, just like how Misbah did when he was way past him prime, and just like how Kamran Akmal has done recently.