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Dear Azhar Ali, it’s time to step up or step down

It was evident that Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq would be the next chieftain of Pakistan’s middle-order

PHOTO: AFP

Azhar Ali’s batting has never been aesthetically pleasing. You will not get to see a Babar-esque cover drive or a sweep like Younis Khan; neither will you get to see him slog a few like Misbahul Haq. Yet, in his own unnoticeable way, he has survived 80 Test matches, scored nearly 6000 runs for his country and is the captain of the team; reaching feats only a few have achieved from his country.

At the time Misbah and Younis, MisYou, bid farewell to Test cricket, he was the top-ranked Pakistan batsman in the ICC Test Rankings and had a batting average only lower than Younis among his active countrymen.

Azhar had a double-hundred in Australia, a triple-hundred in a day-night fixture against West Indies, and a nearly run-a-ball hundred in the Maghrib chase, against Sri Lanka in Sharjah. It was evident that he and Asad Shafiq would be the next chieftain of Pakistan’s middle-order but, sadly enough, it has all gone downhill from there especially for Azhar.

In the first 60 Test matches of his career, all before MisYou retired, he averaged 46.86 in 114 innings and in the next 20 Test matches, his average has dropped to 27.47. He once hit a century every fourth Test and now he has only hit two in 20 matches.

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He had the stubbornness that could frustrate bowlers and fielders as well as his home fans and now he keeps falling over to a ball he should play with a straight bat. His average away from home since May 2017 has dipped to a shameful 12.21, nearly 30 runs per innings less than what he averaged before.

Azhar Ali’s Test Numbers

 

Matches

Innings

Runs

Average

50s/100s

Balls/Inns

Away Average

Until May 2017

60

114

4968

46.86

25/14

104

42.07

After May 2017

20

36

989

27.47

2/6

66

12.21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his last 20 matches, he has already bagged 5 ducks while he had 10 in his first 60 matches.

Captaincy is also not being kind to him as he is yet to win a match outside the comfort of a home ground. His leadership skills in the first Test against England attracted arduous criticism as he gave away a match Pakistan should have won.

Azhar Ali’s record as captain

 

Matches

Won

Lost

Draw

Home

3

2

0

1

Away

5

0

4

1

With Azhar’s own individual form plummeting, his decisions on the field as a captain being heavily criticised and the team’s performance away from home in need of a serious recovery, the burden is only on Azhar to step down or step up, call it a day or rise again as Harvey Dent would sum it, ‘You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain’.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Cricket Pakistan.