Babar is back

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The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has announced the re-appointment of Babar Azam as the captain for white-ball cricket, marking the end of Shaheen Afridi’s brief tenure as the T20 skipper after leading the team in just one series.

Some things never change. Despite a new elected board in the Pakistan Cricket Board, the tradition of reversing or altering decisions made by predecessors and causing confusion seems set to persist. Babar Azam, less than five months after stepping down, returns as white ball cricket captain.

While the PCB has approached Babar, the current skipper Shaheen Shah Afridi appears to be out of the loop. Naqvi’s statements to reporters further add to the confusion by indicating that no decision has been made regarding the captaincy.

Babar has reclaimed his former positions, it will restore his dominance and revered status in Pakistan cricket. Nonetheless, it would also highlight the short memories within the cricket community; this is the same Babar previously accused of favouritism and nepotism within the team, and doubted for his suitability as captain. However, this time, Babar won’t have full control. A restructured selection committee, consisting of seven members without a chairman, will finalize Pakistan’s squad. Naqvi has emphasized that this committee, including the coach and captain, will be solely accountable for the team’s performance. Babar will need to navigate the inclusion of Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir, both of whom he clashed with during his prior captaincy. In the recently concluded Pakistan Super League, both Imad and Amir showcased their prowess on the field, suggesting they are essential for Pakistan’s World Cup campaign.

As both Shaheen and Babar are not on one-page for the last few months, the decision of appointing Babar without taking Shaheen into confidence may affect the unity within the national team as the fast bowler also has a good number of players supporting him. The upcoming New Zealand series will be a test for both Shaheen and Babar to showcase their abilities as a player and a leader respectively.

Babar, who previously held the position across all formats until last year, stepped down following Pakistan’s disappointing performance in the World Cup held in India. During this period of transition within the PCB, the Test captaincy was entrusted to Shan Masood.

Masood led the team in Australia, where Pakistan faced defeat. Meanwhile, the T20I captaincy was given to Afridi, with Mohammad Rizwan serving as his deputy. Pakistan experienced a setback under Afridi’s leadership, suffering a 4-1 defeat in his debut series as captain. Additionally, Afridi’s team Lahore Qalandars had a dismal campaign in the PSL, winning only one game out of ten and finishing at the bottom of the table.

The current selection panel, consisting of Wahab Riaz, Asad Shafiq, Abdul Razzaq, and Mohammad Yousuf, unanimously recommended Babar’s reinstatement as captain. Babar will now lead the team in a five-match T20I series against New Zealand at home, followed by four T20I matches against England away, in preparation for the T20 World Cup scheduled for June.

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