Azam is now the captain across all three formats, bringing to an end Azhar’s brief second stint
In just over a year as the man at the helm in Test cricket, Ali led Pakistan in eight Test matches, which included two wins – against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – and three defeats, which led to series losses against Australia and England.
Azam’s appointment marks an inexorable rise in profile for the batsman, who, in the last few years, has pulled away as Pakistan’s best batsman in all formats by some distance. That inevitably made him a candidate as captain, given Ahmed’s tenure ultimately came to an end due to a sustained dip with the bat. From that perspective, it was something of a surprise to see the PCB turn to Ali, who, at the time he was appointed, was suffering from his own loss of form. Despite scoring a couple of hundreds as captain, his overall dip in form was a palpable presence throughout his time.
Azam’s first assignment will be a two-Test series against New Zealand in December, preceded by a three-match T20I series. The jury remains very much out on Azam’s tactical nous as captain, but the results so far – over admittedly a small sample size – are around where you might expect them. Pakistan have won five of the seven T20Is under his captaincy. The recently-concluded ODI series against Zimbabwe were the only 50-over games Pakistan played since Azam was appointed captain, with two wins and a defeat that went to a Super Over.
There is no indication – yet – that Ali’s removal will jeopardise his place in the side, as it happened to Ahmed. However, with the protective blanket of captaincy stripped away from him, he will undoubtedly feel the pressure to contribute with the bat on Pakistan’s next tour, a two-match Test series against New Zealand.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000