Pakistan One Day International captain Azhar Ali might be facing criticism after their series defeat against England but he has lead his side to achieve great feats. He is the quickest Pakistani to reach the 1000 run mark and despite having an initial lower strike rate, he silenced the critics by posting strike rates of around 90.
Birth of the star
The fastest Pakistani batsman to post 1000 runs in the limited-overs format, Azhar was born in Lahore on 19th February, 1985.
Azhar early displayed brilliant skills in the domestic season and moved up since playing for Khan Research Laboratories in 2006. In the four domestic seasons he was part of, Azhar smashed 11 centuries and registered a 40 plus average.
Recently he became the captain of Lahore Qalandars in the inaugural Pakistan Super League. He registered 180 runs from seven matches in the PSL.
The 31 year old started his international career for Pakistan in the longest format before appearing in the One Day Internationals. He debuted for the Greens against Australia at Lord’s in July six years ago.
Road to captaincy:
Slow start against Australia and England
The Lahore born star was selected in the squad after Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousaf were excluded from the Pakistan side six years ago. Pakistan lost the match in which Ali debuted but he posted acceptable scores. He had 17 and 42 under his belt while debuting against Australia.
Ali bagged his maiden half Test century in the second Test against Australia. As a result his side triumphed over the Aussies for the first time in 15 years.
Against England Azhar showed dismal performance as he recorded a 32 ball duck as Pakistan got all out at 72. Umar Amin, who debuted along with Azhar, was replaced after the second Test against England, but the Punjab native got another shot. He capitalized on it and went on to jolt down an unbeaten knock of 92 in the third Test against England.
South Africa 2010 and New Zealand 2011 Test series
Azhar helped Pakistan chase South Africa’s 451 by smashing fifties in both innings in the first Test. He then brilliantly recorded 90 in the second Test and helped Pakistan record another draw.
He didn’t play much role in Pakistan victory on their tour to New Zealand.
ODI debut: Ireland 2011
His impressive performances and experience in the longest format helped him grab a spot in the One Day International squad. He was named in the squad against Ireland where he posted an acceptable 39 runs from 65 balls while coming at number three. Pakistan eventually clinched the match by 5 wickets and eight balls in hands.
Tour of Sri Lanka 2012
In Pakistan’s tour to Sri Lanka, Azhar was named in both formats of the game. Playing his first big 50-over series, the star impressed everyone. He was four short of making his ODI maiden century in the second match and then recorded an unbeaten knock of 81 in the 4th match.
In the Test matches, Ali carried his momentum and smashed consecutive centuries in the second match. His outstanding performances led him crack the Top 10 of the ICC Test rankings for the first time.
When Misbah UlHaq retired from the limited overs format after the ICC World Cup 2015, the Pakistan Cricket Board looked out several players for the post. Sarfraz Ahmed was the likely candidate to take this role but PCB made a surprise decision and chose Azhar as the new captain. He has been out of action from the ODI action since two years at the time of his appointment.
Pakistan tour of Bangladesh
In his first series as a captain, Azhar failed to leave a mark. Pakistan toured Bangladesh by the end of April and suffered heavy defeat. They were whitewashed for the first time against the Bengali Tigers after losing all three matches.
Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan
Zimbabwe became the first nation to tour Pakistan since the terrorist attacked Sri Lanka bus in Lahore in 2009. Pakistan whitewashed the series as Azhar bagged his second ODI century.
Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka
The tour to Sri Lanka is the best under Azhar’s regime. The victory not only boosted Pakistan’s chances for ICC Champions Trophy but Pakistan claimed the series after almost a decade in Sri Lanka. The team last tasted victory in 2006 under InzamamUlHaq.
Azhar steered the team to victory after bagging most of the runs in the series. Ahmed Shahzad praised the skipper and stated in a press conference, “Azhar is in the form of his life at the moment and he gives us confidence to play our natural game, When you see him at the other end, it makes you bat positively.”
Pakistan on-going tour of England
Pakistan is currently playing series in England which they already have lost. The series loss is the biggest defeat Pakistan faced under Azhar’s regime. England posted 444 at Trent Bridge which is the highest total in ODI history. The third ODI loss saw Pakistan losing the ODI series.
The Greens also suffered a huge blow in their quest to automatically qualify for ICC World Cup 2019. They are currently standing at number nine in the ICC ODI rankings and will need to climb up to automatically qualify for the prestigious tournament.
Azhar has now the second highest average in the One Day International. He has recorded a average of 48.36 from 26 innings and is one of the greatest batsman in the 50-over format.
He is also the fastest Pakistani batsmen to score 1000 runs in the limited overs.
Overall he is ranked at number seventh in the Top 10 quickest batsmen to 1000 ODI runs.
The star also leads the category of most runs as captain after 10 One Day Internationals with 611 runs.
He is the first skipper of Pakistan in the ODI format who has bagged a century in a run chase.