'An opportunity for me to leave a legacy': Azhar Ali on being Pak Test skipper
London: After being made the Pakistan Test skipper, Azhar Ali has said that it is an opportunity for him to leave a legacy in the sport and there could be no greater honour than leading your side.
"There could be no greater honour. This is an opportunity for me to leave a legacy. The amount of cricket I have played for Pakistan, the next four-five years are very important for me both as a player and a captain," ESPN Cricinfo quoted Ali as saying.
"I aim to bring players through under my captaincy that can serve Pakistan cricket for many years to come. This is what I mean by leaving my legacy. I want to transfer my experiences to them and help them learn how to play fearless, positive cricket. So winning is very important, but building a positive culture is my top priority," he added.
On Friday, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) decided to sack Sarfaraz Ahmed as the Test and T20I skipper. In place of him, Ali was made the Test captain while Babar Azam was handed the reins in the shortest format of the game.
Ali said that leading the side in the World Test Championship would be very promising as the new introduction is like the 'World Cup' for Test matches.
The 34-year-old even went on to thank former skipper Sarfaraz for the services he provided to the side.
"The Test Championship is coming up, and that's like a World Cup for Test cricket. Right now, we are number seven in the rankings, so we have a fair distance to travel. The teams we will play in the Test Championship will almost all be higher ranked than us. So there are many challenges, but it is also a great opportunity to play fearless, exciting cricket and get the desired results," Ali said.
"Secondly, I would like to thank Sarfaraz. The way he has led Pakistan, and the services he has provided Pakistan with, are excellent. I spoke to him after the announcement and my full support lies with Sarfaraz," he added.
The life has come full circle for Ali as when he was the ODI skipper in 2017, he was asked to hand over the captaincy to Sarfaraz after Pakistan's 1-4 drubbing at the hands of Australia.
And now after almost three years, a week before Pakistan are due to fly to Australia for three T20Is and two Tests, Sarfaraz was asked to hand over the reins in the longest format of the game to Ali.
Pakistan had played nine matches in the World Cup in which they managed to win five while they lost three matches.
The team faced huge criticism after they lost against India by 89 runs. They were ranked at the fifth spot in the tournament standings and could not qualify for the semi-finals.
In April 2016, Sarfaraz was appointed as the Pakistan captain for the T20Is before being elevated as the ODI captain in early 2017. He was then named captain across all formats following the 2017 tour of the West Indies.
Sarfaraz led Pakistan in 13 Tests, 51 ODIs and 37 T20I out of which he won four, 28 and 29 matches respectively.
"As you know, I have prioritised Test cricket, because it is the best format of the game, and the format that sees the players' best skills come out. My priority will be to have my players focus on red-ball cricket, because white-ball cricket will take care of itself," Ali said.
The right-handed batsman also revealed that the PCB has handed him the captaincy on a long term basis.
"I specifically asked whether my appointment will be short term or not. I got full support from the board that my appointment is not a short-term thing, which is why I accepted it. There is no set timeframe they have given me, but I have been assured there's enough time for me to prove myself and implement my own ideas on the team," Ali said.
"When there is a lot of pressure on you and the results are not coming, as happened when I captained the last time, then sometimes change can be good. It doesn't mean that you've given up," he added.
Pakistan will next take on Australia in three T20Is and two Tests. The first T20I will be played on November 3.