A loss in this crucial encounter would almost certainly eliminate Pakistan’s chances of advancing to the semifinals, making it a turning point in Babar’s captaincy.The pressure is mounting on Azam and the team to salvage their World Cup campaign with a victory.
“Addressing the media scrutiny directed at captain Babar Azam and the team management, the board’s stance, echoing that of former cricketers, is that successes and defeats are part of the game. Captain Babar Azam and Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq were given freedom and support in forming the squad for the ICC World Cup 2023,” said PCB in a statement.
“Looking ahead, the board will make decisions in the best interest of Pakistan cricket based on the team’s performances in the World Cup. At present, the PCB encourages fans, former players and stakeholders to rally behind the team as they strive to make a triumphant comeback in the mega-event.”
The shocking eight-wicket loss to Afghanistan in Chennai intensified the calls for change in leadership.
A reliable source within the cricket board has suggested that only a miraculous turnaround, where Pakistan win all their remaining matches to qualify for the semifinals, could potentially save Babar as captain. Even then, there are discussions about limiting his captaincy to the red-ball format.
Names like Sarfaraz Ahmed, Muhammad Rizwan, and Shaheen Shah Afridi have been circulated as potential candidates to replace Babar as captain once the national team returns home from the World Cup. Pakistan’s upcoming tour to Australia and preparations for the 2024 T20 World Cup and 2025 ICC Champions Trophy add further urgency to the decision.
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The PCB is increasingly leaning towards a consensus that Babar has had his opportunity to prove himself as captain and has failed to deliver, according to inside sources.
PCB said it was aware of the sentiments of the fans at home and urged them to continue supporting the skipper during the World Cup.
“The PCB acknowledges the emotions and sentiments of cricket fans following the three consecutive defeats faced by the national team in the ICC World Cup 2023. In this challenging environment, the board administration hopes that the cricketing fraternity and fans will continue to support captain Babar Azam and the entire Pakistan cricket team,” the statement added.
“The national team still has four crucial matches remaining in the round-robin stage, and the PCB is optimistic that the team will regroup, overcome the setbacks and perform positively and effectively in the upcoming fixtures,” it added.
(With inputs from PTI)