Pakistan to get new captain and coach? Babar Azam may return as skipper

New PCB chief is trying to bring back Babar Azam as the skipper in all formats

Shaheen Afridi and Babar Azam (FILE) Pakistan cricketers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Babar Azam | AFP

Amid reports that the Pakistan Cricket Board has lost faith in the ability of Shan Masood and Shaheen Shah Afridi to lead the national side and are looking to bring back Babar Azam as skipper in all formats, former skipper Shahid Afridi has come out in defence of Shaheen.

"I think that if you have appointed someone as captain and given him the responsibility, then give him time as well," Afridi told the media in Karachi. "The biggest problem with our cricket is that our system changes whenever the faces change in the board. Whoever comes, thinks whatever he is doing is the best for Pakistan cricket," Afridi said. "If you change the captain then either the decision to appoint him was wrong or the decision to change him now is wrong.”

PTI had quoted sources in the PCB as saying that the new chairman, Mohsin Naqvi, is trying to bring back Azam as the skipper across all formats. He resigned as Pakistan captain in all formats—a position he had held since 2020—following their poor 2023 ODI World Cup campaign, where they failed to qualify for the semifinals with just four wins in nine matches. There were speculations, however, that he was sacked by then PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf.

Soon after his resignation, Masood was appointed captain in the Test format and Shaheen was made the T20I skipper.

"Shaheen, during Zaka's time, was seen as the saviour of Pakistan cricket as T20 captain as he had won two finals for Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League,” a source told PTI.

But things have not been going Shaheen's way of late. He not only lost his first series as captain in New Zealand (1-4) but returned to see Qalandars finish at the bottom of the points table in the PSL this year.

"The powers that be appear to have lost faith in Shan Masood and Shaheen Shah Afridi's ability to lead the national side in Test and T20 formats with the change in the board's chairmanship."

The source added that Azam is now playing hard to get. "Feelers have been sent out to Babar to find out if he is ready to take charge again and he has shown some reservations. Apparently, he wants some assurances from the board chairman."

The source added that Naqvi is relying on the advice of former players to take important decisions. The source also said that with the return of seasoned players like Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir from retirement, it has also been decided that the chairman will meet the duo along with Babar soon to sort out any misunderstandings.

Luke Ronchi as head coach?

Meanwhile, the PCB has, reportedly, zeroed in on former Australia and New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter Luke Ronchi as the new head coach.

A PCB source said on Wednesday that "extensive discussions" had taken place with the 42-year-old Ronchi, who has also coached PSL side Islamabad United.

"With no high-profile coach showing interest in working for the PCB as most of them are already committed with different leagues or have reservations working in Pakistan cricket, the search has come down to Ronchi," the source said.

He said the contract with Ronchi should be finalised in the next few days before the home T20 series against New Zealand commences.

Ronchi, after taking retirement from professional cricket, has also worked with the New Zealand team as its batting consultant and coach.

The source added that the PCB team had contacted some well-known coaches but most of them were either already committed or reluctant to accept any assignment with the Pakistan board.

"Given the history of the PCB in dealing with foreign and local coaches, obviously one can understand the reservations of some foreign coaches," he said.

The source said that Ronchi has asked for an ironclad assurance that he would be given a proper time frame to work with the Pakistan team over a period of time no matter what the results are.

"He wants clear assurances that his performance will only be evaluated after a certain period of time, not after every series or event," the source said.

Naqvi had last week blamed the leakage of salary details and other aspects of a possible coaching contract with Shane Watson for the Australian to eventually back out of the discussion.

The PCB has already started its training camp at the Kakul army base in preparation for the T20 World Cup in June, starting with the home series against New Zealand in April.

(With PTI inputs)

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