PCB breaks silence on ‘infighting’ after Babar vs Shaheen controversy

Shaheen Shah Afridi (left) and Babar Azam during Asia Cup 2023 in this undated photo. — AFP
Shaheen Shah Afridi (left) and Babar Azam during Asia Cup 2023 in this undated photo. — AFP

Wahab Riaz, a selection committee member and senior Pakistan team manager, responded to a query regarding rifts within the national squad by saying that there was no best choice other than Babar Azam for leading the team as he is most experienced skipper and also a best player in terms of individual statistics.

He termed media reports of grouping within the team over captaincy issue just “speculations”. Riaz criticised that local media and some segments of social media were portraying the situation like “players are going to kill each other if we don’t send them to Kakul”.

The senior team manager said that there was no truth in the media reports as the players spent a very good and “pleasant time” in Kakul alongside going through training session at the Army School of Physical Training (ASPT) camp.

Elaborating on reasons behind bringing in Azam as captain, again, Riaz said that Shaheen Shah Afridi is main strike bowler and brand name of Pakistan. The team wants him “fresh” for big tournaments ahead and “free mind to execute his skills”, he said.

“All players are united and they play for Pakistan,” added Riaz.

To another question, he also termed former PCB chief Ramiz Raja’s comment regarding pacer Mohammad Amir “negative”.

The famous cricket commentator slammed Amir’s return to the national team who took back his international retirement and opined that tainted cricketers should neither be forgiven and completely expelled from the sport.

He added that every person has right to express his opinion and he would not comment more over Raja’s remarks except calling it very negative.

Meanwhile, Riaz said that the PCB announced a squad of 17 players and five have been kept as reserves, which means that they will be relied upon to perform well ahead of finalising the World Cup squad before April 25.

“We will finalise which boys will be part of the World Cup squad from Pakistan before April 25.”

Commenting on the return of Babar as captain as well as the lack of a vice-captain in the team, Wahab said: “Babar Azam is the white ball captain. As far as the vice-captain is concerned, discussions are still continuing. We want somebody to stand by Babar. We will look into everything that is beneficial for the betterment of the team and make announcements later.”

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