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Babar, Shaheen, Babar again: A timeline of Pakistan’s four-month captaincy saga

Pakistan have appointed Babar Azam as white-ball captain again and here’s a timeline of the captaincy saga that led to his return.
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Babar Azam has been appointed Pakistan’s white-ball captain again after four months and here’s a timeline of the captaincy saga that led to his return.

15 November, 2023

Babar Azam resigned as captain from all formats after Pakistan’s disastrous campaign at the 2023 World Cup, where they finished fifth. Pakistan also had a poor Asia Cup before the event, where they ended in the fourth spot. Soon after the resignation, the PCB confirmed that Babar was given the option to continue as a Test skipper and only seek his replacement in white-ball cricket. However, he stepped down from all formats.

The same day, Pakistan named Shan Masood as the next Test skipper while Shaheen Shah Afridi was initially named the white-ball captain. Soon after, social media posts confirming the appointment were deleted and Shaheen was named the T20 skipper instead. Pakistan do not play an ODI till November 2024 and they did not name a skipper for the format as a result.

Had he not resigned, Babar would have continued as captain. PCB chair Zaka Ashraf took on the role temporarily after caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar handed him the duties, but could not make significant changes in his tenure, including removing and naming a new skipper. Babar’s resignation opened the doors for Masood and Shaheen.

It should also be noted that Babar had made his intention of leading Pakistan even after the ODI World Cup clear after his team’s last game in the tournament, telling Michael Atherton that he wished to rebuild the side as leader.

December 2023 – January 2024

Pakistan went on two tours with their new captains. Masood led Pakistan in a three-match Test series against Australia, which they lost 0-3. Pakistan, led by Shaheen, then went to New Zealand for a five-match T20I series. They lost 1-4. Babar played as a batter on both occasions.

Shaheen, the captain of Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League, was under scrutiny after his team won only one of ten games in the competition.

February 6, 2024

PCB appointed a new chair Mohsin Naqvi after the general elections in the country. It gave Naqvi the power to name a new Pakistan captain and terminate the former skipper’s tenure.

He initially declined to confirm whether Shaheen would continue as captain: “Even I don’t know who the captain will be. There are a number of technical factors we will consider, the details of which I do not want to go into. We want a long-term solution, whether it’s Shaheen or a new man. And then we intend to stick by that man, instead of just changing a captain just because you lose a match or captain.”

March 29, 2024

Babar was offered the white-ball captaincy after Naqvi met with the batter to make an offer. Reports claimed that Babar was initially reluctant and that he asked PCB to appoint him captain in all three formats if he was to consider a return.

March 31, 2024

Babar returned as white-ball captain. The PCB announced the decision on Sunday after a majority in the four-member selection panel was in favour of having him back. According to reports, though, Babar had certain conditions before accepting the role, including getting a guarantee that he would not be removed on a whim again. ESPNCricinfo also reported he asked for a greater role in selection matters.

The PCB, whilst confirming the news, also put out a statement from Shaheen on their website: “I will always cherish the memories and the opportunity. As a team player, it is my duty to back our captain, Babar Azam. I have played under his captaincy and have nothing but respect for him. I will try to help him on and off the field. We are all one. Our aim is the same, to help Pakistan become the best team in the world.”

April 1, 2024

Pakistan’s captaincy saga saw another controversy after Shaheen was reportedly furious with the PCB for putting out quotes he did not say. ESPNCricinfo reported that Naqvi would have an emergency meeting with Shaheen after he was on the brink of making a statement himself, clarifying the quotes were wrongly attributed to him. It is understood that Shaheen, who feels hard done by at the whole captaincy reversal, has no role to play in the statement and the words are not his.

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