LAHORE: Pakistan’s newly appointed Test captain Azhar Ali said on Friday that his specific mandate was to improve the team’s international ranking and blend it into a winning combination by displaying fearless cricket.
“There are a lot of challenges our team is facing at the moment and my main target is to improve the team’s Test ranking which is number seven at the moment,” he said during a press conference.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) removed Sarfaraz Ahmed as Test and T20I captain and appointed Ali and Babar Azam as captains.
Speaking about his appointment, Ali said it was a big honour for him to be handed this responsibility by the PCB. “The board has reposed confidence in me by assigning me the job of Test team captain and I will take every measure to lift the team’s performance and perform to a higher level to be an inspiration for the fellow colleagues,” the batsman said.
“The coming tour of Australia in which we will be playing two Test matches will have a lot of challenges and it is going to be the first Test of my captaincy and I look forward to this series with confidence and hope that we will be able to play good quality cricket in Australia,” said Ali.
He continued, “I had prepared myself mentally to accept captaincy as I consulted my seniors in the game and my family members and then decided to accept this great opportunity.”
Ali said as a captain he will strive to make Pakistan a Test team who would have the potential of serving the longest format of the game for quite a long time.
Praising the leadership of the outgoing captain, Sarfaraz, Ali paid rich tributes to the former captain and said he did a lot to enhance the team’s performance and image in Test cricket.
He also extended good wishes and said Sarfaraz was a fighter player having the ability to make a comeback in the team.
Responding to a question, the 34-year-old said he enjoys greater coordination with the team’s head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq with whom he had played a lot of cricket in the past.
“I will enjoy working with Misbah while taking benefit from his status and expertise in cricket,” he said.
He called upon the team members to play fearless cricket, setting aside pressure and display best of their abilities during the Test series in Australia.
Terming the ICC Test Championship a tough event, the opening batsman said the teams participating in it were better and superior in ranking as compared to Pakistan and urged his players to get united to showcase collective efforts for achieving desired results.
“I have not been appointed captain for a short term as leading the team for a shorter time puts the leader under pressure and PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani has assured me of his full backing and support saying that it is not a short-term assignment for me,” he said.
“I don’t know about the time period of my captaincy, what I know that I have enough time to improve my team and my performance as well to accomplish the task assigned to me,” Ali added.
Responding to another question, Ali made it clear that he would be having a say in the final team selection. “Our track record in Australia is not good; we will be missing pacer Mohammad Amir and all-rounder Wahab Riaz, but at the same time it would be a new opportunity for us to prove ourselves in Australia and to get benefit from the talent of new and young players of the team,” he said.
Ali said he would bat at whatever number the team needed him too.
He added he would go all out for transferring his experience of Test cricket to the young players in order to infuse confidence in them and to be a role model by putting up a good performance.
“By doing good for the team is the best way that your legacy should also be remembered,” he said adding “Test cricket is not easy but I have faith in the young talent in the ranks and I fully need their support for teams good performance in Australia.”
Ali added that they would be finalising the squad for the Australia tour in the next two days.