Azhar Ali announces retirement from Test cricket

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Pakistan’s former cricket captain and top-order batsman Azhar Ali has announced his retirement from Test cricket.


Addressing a news conference in Karachi on Friday, a teary-eyed Azhar Ali said the third Test match against England which will start in the megacity on Saturday will be his last match.


One of the country’s most successful batters, Azhar Ali said it was a great honour to represent Pakistan and he will hang his boots following the third Test against England, which begins on Saturday.


With 7,097 runs in 96 matches at an average of 42.49, Azhar Ali is Pakistan’s fifth leading Test run-getter behind Younis Khan (10,099), Javed Miandad (8,832), Inzamamul Haq (8,829) and Mohammad Yousuf (7,530).


In 2010, Azhar Ali, as a 25-year-old, made his Test debut in England against Australia at Lord’s and scored his maiden Test half-century in only his second match. He scored 34 more half-centuries and went past the 100-run mark on 19 instances.


Azhar Ali, 37, is the only Pakistani batter to score a triple-century in a pink-ball Test – a feat that he achieved against the West Indies at Dubai in 2016. That unbeaten 302 remains his highest score in Test cricket.


Over the course of his 12-year career, Azhar Ali also made two double-centuries – 226 against Bangladesh in Dhaka (May 2015) and 205 not out against Australia in Melbourne (December 2016) – and has, at least, one century in Australia, Bangladesh, England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, the West Indies and Zimbabwe. Against Australia in Abu Dhabi in 2014, Azhar scored a century in each innings (109 and 100 not out) to help Pakistan win the second Test by 356 runs and two-Test series 2-0.


Azhar Ali also captained Pakistan in nine Tests in two separate tenures from 2016 till 2020.


Azhar retired from One-Day Internationals in 2018 – a year after helping Pakistan win the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. In that tournament, Azhar had scores of 50 (v India), 9 (v South Africa), 34 (v Sri Lanka), 76 (v England in semi-final) and 59 (v India in final).


During his presser, Azhar Ali said: “It has been a great honour and privilege for me to represent my country at the highest level. Deciding on when to call it a day is always tough, but, after contemplating deeply, I realised that this is the right time for me to retire from Test cricket.


“There are many people who I am grateful to in this strenuous, yet beautiful journey. I want to make a special mention of my family without whose sacrifices; I would not have been where I am today. My parents, wife, siblings, and children have been my strength throughout.


“I have been blessed to share dressing room with some of the most outstanding cricketers with whom I share a strong bond. I feel much richer by calling these people my friends. I am also blessed to have played under some wonderful coaches to whom I will always remain grateful.


“I retire from international cricket as a fulfilled cricketer who ticked most of the goals he had set for himself. Not many cricketers go on to lead their countries, and that I was able to captain Pakistan is a matter of great pride for me. From being a kid who started as a leg-spinner to becoming a mainstay in the Test batting line-up, I had the loveliest moments of my life that I will cherish forever.”


In reaction, PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja showered praise on Azhar Ali, saying: “Azhar Ali has been one of the most committed and loyal servants of Pakistan cricket. His grit and determination have been an inspiration for many young cricketers and he is a role model for up and coming cricketers.”


Raja further said “While it is sad that Pakistan will not have a player of his experience in the dressing room to draw upon, it only reflects the circle of life. I hope to see Azhar continuing to play a role in the development of Pakistan cricket and sharing his vast knowledge and experience with budding cricketers.”