Azhar Ali steps away from ODI's
Former Pakistan captain Azhar Ali has retired from the 50-over form of the game, effective immediately. The decision comes at the end of a year which has seen him dropped from the side and replaced Imam-ul-Haq, who has been a revelation since coming into the team. According to Ali, the decision will allow him to ‘concentrate on Test with the same fitness and energy that I have been’, while the ‘terrific players’ that are currently representing Pakistan in the one-day format will hold the team in good stead.
He retires from the format as a player who was certainly more suited to the longer form of the game, but who nonetheless was able to develop into a reliable player for the side, while also captaining them through a difficult period. He didn’t have the power hitting game present in many other limited overs players around the world, hitting just 13 6’s in his 53 matches, but he was still able to utilise his batting nous and experience to score at a fairly reasonable rate.
All up, Ali ends his career having walked out to bat 53 times, scoring 1,845 runs in this time. He finishes with a healthy average of 36.90 and a respectable strike rate of 74.45. Ali reached the 50 mark 15 times out of those 53 occasions, and was able to translate that into a century three times - first against Bangladesh in April 2015, then against Zimbabwe the very next month, and finally against the West Indies in the latter stages of 2016.
Rarely one to dominate, Ali still played a number of crucial innings in the Pakistan top order between his debut in 2011 and his final ODI earlier this year. He was a staple of the batting lineup, opening in all but 12 of his matches, and coming in at three in the rest of them - excluding a solitary occasion when he came in at number seven.
His final tour was a forgettable one, as he managed just 6, 6 and a duck in his three games against New Zealand. Subsequently dropped, he would never again make it back into the team, though with his replacement batting as well as Imam-ul-Haq has been, one gets the feeling that wouldn’t bother Ali too much.
The 33 year old is still an integral member of the Pakistan Test side, even if he hasn’t enjoyed the form in 2018 that he has previously. His most recent outing was a promising one, scoring 64 - his highest total for the year - against Australia before being run out. Having been such a crucial member of the national team in both formats in which he represented it, fans will no doubt be hopeful that he has more to give.
Harking back to a little over year ago though, he was still scoring runs at a fairly rapid rate. There is, of course, an unwritten rule that the further into his 30’s a cricketer ventures the less forgiving selectors tend to be with runs of bad form, however there is likely still a little way to go before his spot in the test side is up for grabs. Perhaps, as Ali clearly hopes and intends, the decision to step away from the ODI arena and subsequently focus more on Test matches will pay dividends, and will see him ably represent Pakistan for a number of years to come.