Azhar Ali retires from ODIs, to play only Tests for Pakistan (Photo: Twitter)
Azhar Ali, the former Pakistan captain, has announced his retirement from One Day Internationals and will focus only on Tests in the near future. Speaking in a press conference at Lahore, Azhar said the decision to retire from ODIs was not sudden and that it was a personal decision. “It's the right time to focus on Tests. I want to concentrate on Tests with the same fitness and energy that I have been,” Azhar said.
The 33-year-old has scored 1845 runs at an average of 36.05. His last major ODI series in New Zealand at the start of the year. Azhar will be remembered for his magnificent consistency at the top of the order during the Champions Trophy in 2017. His 76 in the semi-final against England knocked the hosts out of the competition. His valuable 59 in the final against India was key in Pakistan winning the tournament and becoming only the fourth nation to win all three major ICC trophies.
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Disaster as captain
Azhar took over the captaincy of the side following the end of the 2015 World Cup. However, Pakistan could win only four out of 10 bilateral series till 2017. The wins came against Zimbabwe, West Indies, Sri Lanka and a one-off against Ireland. The string of poor results saw Pakistan slip to number ninth in the ICC rankings.
Azhar's captainship style was described as passive and unimaginative by former stalwarts and critics. The right-handed batsman was not selected in the ODI squad for a year and half when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) decided he was the best choice to lead the team.
However, as a batsman, Azhar’s batting improved as skipper. He smashed three centuries and averaged over 37, much better than his career average of 36.
Pakistan’s next ODI assignment will be against New Zealand in the UAE after the conclusion of the three-match Twenty20 International series.