ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan’s cricket team faces challenges in the ongoing World Cup in India, discussions are heating up about Babar Azam’s captaincy. Speculation is rife that Sarfaraz Ahmed, Muhammad Rizwan, and Shaheen Shah Afridi are emerging as possible replacements for Babar Azam when the team returns home.
Amidst a packed schedule, which includes an upcoming tour of Australia and preparations for the 2024 T20 World Cup and the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is under pressure to reassess Babar’s leadership.
A growing consensus within the PCB suggests that Babar may have exhausted his chances as captain and hasn’t delivered the desired results.
With four more league games left in the World Cup, Pakistan still has a slim chance of making it to the semifinals. However, insiders believe that only a miraculous turnaround in the team’s performance may save Babar’s captaincy.
Scrutiny is intensifying over Babar’s management style and his authority in team selection. He’s had significant power as captain and has had a say in player choices. Consequently, any setbacks, such as those in the Asia Cup and the current World Cup, are now being attributed to him.
Former captains, including Misbah ul Haq and Muhammad Hafeez, had advised introducing changes ahead of the World Cup. However, Babar insisted on sticking with his preferred players. As a result, calls for his resignation as captain are growing louder.
Intriguingly, lobbying has already begun for potential captaincy candidates, with the likelihood of different captains being named for the red and white ball formats. Sarfaraz Ahmed may take charge of the Test and ODI sides, while Shaheen Shah Afridi could lead the T20 team.
There’s also uncertainty surrounding the team’s support staff, including Mickey Arthur, Grant Bradburn, Mornie Merkel, Andrew Puttick, and manager Rehan ul Haq. Their futures may be in doubt after the World Cup.
It appears increasingly likely that Pakistan will witness changes in both coaching staff and captaincy as they prepare for the Test tour of Australia and the white-ball series in New Zealand following the World Cup.
In addition, the PCB is concerned about reports of disputes within the dressing room, despite their denial of these claims on Monday. Babar Azam, who was initially named T20 captain in late 2019, assumed the captaincy of all three formats by 2021.