‘Strategic move’: PCB explains decision to replace Shaheen Afridi with Babar Azam

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The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has replaced Shaheen Shah Afridi as captain of T20I with Babar Azam, in a move aimed at ensuring “well-being” of players.

In a statement on Sunday, the country’s top cricket authority announced Babar Azam as the new white-ball captain of the Pakistan Men’s national cricket team.

Babar has already led Pakistan in 43 ODIs and 71 T20Is between 2019 and 2023.

The cricket governing board said it overhauled the white-ball leadership “in a strategic move aimed at ensuring player well-being and peak performance”.

Babar, renowned for his brilliant batting record in international cricket will take over the captaincy from Afridi.

While Shaheen Afridi has undeniably proven himself as a star fast bowler, the PCB said leading Pakistan’s pace attack over the years, the board recognises the importance of rotation and rest to maintain his peak performance.

“This decision aligns with board’s commitment to safeguarding the longevity of the players, especially fast bowlers given their injury timelines in the past two years,” it added.

Keeping in mind workload management, the PCB said this decision has been taken to ensure Pakistan main bowlers remain at the top of their game.

The board does not want the national men’s team to run into injury crisis concerning the bowling resources as seen before the ICC T20 World Cup 2022, where Shaheen had to be closely looked after and ICC ODI Cricket World Cup 2023, where the team didn’t have the services of Naseem Shah, it added.

Reacting to the PCB’s decision Afridi said: “It was an absolute honour to captain the Pakistan National Cricket Team. I will always cherish the memories and the opportunity. As a team player, it is my duty to back our captain, Babar Azam.

“I have played under his captaincy and have nothing but respect for him. I will try to help him on and off the field. We are all one. Our aim is the same, to help Pakistan become the best team in the world.”

The cricket board said Babar Azam, with his proven leadership skills and remarkable consistency, is well-equipped to lead the team.

His past captaincy record speaks for itself. Under his leadership, Pakistan beat India for the first time in a World Cup encounter back in the ICC T20 World Cup 2021.

In the 2022 T20 World Cup, he led the team to the final. This was Pakistan’s first final in a World Cup since 2009. His appointment as captain reflects PCB’s confidence in his ability to inspire and unite the team towards success.

On his reappointment as white ball captain, Babar said: “It was a pleasure to play under Shaheen’s leadership in the recent T20I series. He is still young and is improving as a player and as a leader every day.

“As a captain, I have always valued his input and I will keep consulting him for important decisions going forward. We must take advantage of his strategic understanding of the game. Our joint aim is to make this team the best in the world.”

The PCB also expressed gratitude to Shaheen Afridi for his contributions as captain and “looks forward to his success on the field”.

He will be part of Pakistan’s core leadership group.

“We give our unequivocal support to both Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi as they embark on their respective roles, aiming to make Pakistan a top team in the world of cricket,” the PCB said.

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