As Pakistan face the stern task of winning the series against Sri Lanka with a substantial margin to keep hopes of Champions Trophy qualification alive, national ODI captain Azhar Ali may have to bear the added burden of worrying about his captaincy.
Azhar, who has yet to impress selectors with his leadership skills, has to rally the team round after the Greenshirts succumbed to pressure and lost the second ODI in the five match series.
Pakistan's participation in the ICC Champions Trophy hinges on a series victory for Pakistan in Sri Lanka. Though Pakistan has another series with Zimbabwe and West Indies in August-September before ICC announces ODI team rankings, but winning the series in Sri Lanka would provide Team Green some cushion going in the tri-series.
Read: Sri Lanka fight back to level Pakistan series
A source close to the national team and the selectors revealed that given the Azhar’s defensive batting style and slow strike rate in ODIs the national selectors were having second thoughts about his ability to build the ODI squad and make it more aggressive.
In the event Pakistan looses the bilateral series in Sri Lanka, the selectors might recommend Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman to replace Azhar with wicket-keeper batsmen Sarfaraz Ahmed, who is currently serving as vice-captain to Azhar and Shahid Afridi in ODIs and T20s, respectively.
So far, Azhar has led the national side in eight ODIs only, three against Bangladesh, three against Zimbabwe in the home series and two against Sri Lanka in the ongoing series. Although his batting form has improved since he assumed the responsibility of leading the national side, but according to critics he has failed to provide the much needed spark to the team.
Read: Defensive mindset cost Pakistan: former players
Commenting on Azhar’s style of captaincy, former Test off-spinner Tauseef Ahmed noted that in the second ODI against Sri Lanka, when the pressure ratcheted up, the young captain ran out of ideas. He added that Azhar would need to learn a lot more and be more attacking.
Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif did not agree with Tauseef’s assessment, saying it was too soon to judge Azhar both as a captain and as an ODI batsman. However, he acknowledges that Azhar would need to improve his batting strike rate in ODI, which currently stands at around 75.
The article originally appeared on NDTV