Pakistan named Babar Azam as their new Test captain on Tuesday, putting the batsman in charge of teams across all formats.
Azam replaces Azhar Ali, who led Pakistan to a 1-0 series defeat in England earlier this year. Ali led Pakistan in eight Tests since he was appointed captain last year. He won two home Test matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh but lost in Australia 2-0 and in England 1-0.
Azam is the third Pakistan Test captain in 13 months after Sarfaraz Ahmed was sacked in October last year.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) made the announcement after Azam led the team to Twenty-20 and one-day international series victories over Zimbabwe on home soil. According to a statement by the PCB, the decision was confirmed after subsequent meetings with Ali and Azam.
“As we are looking into the future, it is appropriate that we appoint him the captain now so that he continues to grow stronger with every match,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said in a statement.
“I wish Babar all the best and remain optimistic that he will help Pakistan cricket make an upward movement across all formats not only through his performance but also with his positive attitude and result-oriented approach.”
Mani also lauded Ali for “stepping up […] by captaining the side in what was a historic first home Test series in over a decade”.
“I believe Azhar still has a lot of cricket left in him and Pakistan cricket can continue to make the best use of his experience and knowledge as specialist top-order batsman moving forward,” Mani was quoted as saying by the PCB press release.
Azam has been a prolific scorer for Pakistan and currently ranks among the top five batsmen in all three formats.
The 26-year-old’s first assignment as Test skipper will be the ICC World Test Championship matches against New Zealand, which will be played in Mount Maunganui and Christchurch from December 26-30 and January 3-7, respectively.
“I feel truly honoured to have been appointed Test captain and join some of the most iconic players who have captained Pakistan in the purest format of the game,” said Azam, who took charge of Pakistan’s limited-overs teams earlier this year.
“I am ready and prepared to take up the additional responsibility and the fact which gives me additional confidence is that I can do the job is the experience that is available to me in the changing room in the shape of the players and support staff.”
Azam also thanked his predecessor Ali for taking up the “difficult” task of captaining the Test team.
“I want to thank Azhar Ali for the way he captained the team in the last season, which was a difficult one, but I know that he will leave no stone unturned in giving his very best to the team,” the skipper was quoted as saying by the PCB.
Ali congratulated Azam on his appointment as Test captain and assured him of his “full support”.
“May Allah help you achieve many glorious victories for Pakistan,” Ali said in a tweet.