Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali

Player Bio

Azhar Ali, a name synonymous with resilience and patience in the realm of cricket, has been one of Pakistan's most dependable batsmen, especially in the longer format of the game. Born on February 19, 1985, in Lahore, Punjab, Azhar's cricketing journey is a testament to his unwavering dedication and commitment to the sport. With a compact technique and an innate ability to weather storms, he has established himself as one of Pakistan's finest batters of his era.

Early Life and Entry into Cricket

Azhar Ali's love for cricket was evident from a young age. Hailing from Lahore, a city with a rich cricketing heritage, it was only natural for him to be drawn to the sport. His early days were marked by his dedication to honing his skills and understanding the nuances of the game.

His talent and temperament were first globally recognized during an A tour to Australia in 2009. In this series, he showcased his potential by crafting two five-hour 70s against a formidable Australian attack that included names like Doug Bollinger, Clint McKay, and Jason Krejza. These performances not only highlighted his technical prowess but also his mental fortitude, qualities that would serve him well in the international arena.

The 2009-10 season was a turning point in Azhar's career. His consistent performances at the domestic level caught the attention of the national selectors. This led to his much-deserved Test debut in the middle order at the iconic Lord's Cricket Ground against Australia. It was a dream come true for the young batter, and he didn't disappoint. He showcased his skills in challenging batting conditions, further solidifying his position in the team.

In his early international career, Azhar's ability to play long innings was evident. He scored his first Test fifty in his second game at Headingley in 2010 during a tricky fourth-innings chase against Australia. However, the journey to his maiden Test century was a test of his patience. He would go on to score ten more fifties before reaching the three-figure mark against England in the UAE in 2012. This innings was a testament to his grit, as it came in a low-scoring match, further emphasising his importance to the Pakistani batting lineup.

Azhar's rise in international cricket was meteoric. By 2016, he had become one of the mainstays of the Pakistani batting order. This year was particularly fruitful for him as he amassed over a thousand runs. Among his notable innings were an unbeaten triple-century against the West Indies in the UAE and a resilient 205 not out against Australia, where he stood tall while wickets tumbled around him.

His early successes and consistent performances paved the way for leadership roles within the team. After the 2015 World Cup, Azhar took over the reins of the ODI team from Misbah-ul-Haq. Though his captaincy stint had its challenges, his commitment to the team and the sport never wavered.

Rise in International Cricket

Azhar Ali's ascent in international cricket was nothing short of meteoric. His debut in the Test arena came against Australia at the revered Lord's Cricket Ground in July 2010. As a right-handed batter with a penchant for leg-break bowling, Azhar's prowess was soon evident. He etched his name in the annals of cricket history by becoming the first-ever player to score a century, double century, and triple century in a Day and Night Test Match. This remarkable feat was achieved when he scored a mammoth 302 against the West Indies in October 2016. Although David Warner later surpassed this record, Azhar's innings remains a testament to his skill and endurance.

His contributions were instrumental in Pakistan's triumph at the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. In the final against arch-rivals India, he played a pivotal role, scoring a crucial 59 runs. This victory was not just a testament to Azhar's abilities but also showcased his importance in the Pakistani lineup.

Captaincy and Leadership

Following Misbah-ul-Haq's retirement from ODIs, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) faced the daunting task of appointing his successor. While several candidates were considered, many of them were either inconsistent or had disciplinary issues. The board ultimately placed their trust in Azhar Ali, even though he had been out of the ODI scene for almost two years at the time of his appointment. Despite facing criticism and scepticism, Azhar was determined to elevate the Pakistani team to new heights.

His captaincy journey had its fair share of ups and downs. Under his leadership, Pakistan faced a series whitewash against Bangladesh in April. Although Azhar contributed with scores of 62 and 101, his maiden ODI century, the team couldn't avoid defeat. However, redemption came when Zimbabwe toured Pakistan. Under Azhar's captaincy, Pakistan clinched the three-match ODI series 2-0, with Azhar scoring his second ODI century in front of a home crowd.

Azhar's leadership was further tested during Pakistan's tour of England in August 2016. While he had a commendable Test series, the ODI series was one of the most challenging for Pakistan in England. Despite the team's 4-1 series loss, Azhar's personal performance was noteworthy, with scores of 80 and 82 being the highlights. However, his captaincy and scoring rate faced criticism. Rumours swirled about him stepping down as captain, but Azhar dispelled them, expressing his commitment to leading the ODI team. His resolve was evident when Pakistan faced the West Indies in the UAE in 2016, where under his leadership, Pakistan emerged victorious in both the T20 and ODI series.

Memorable Innings and Achievements

Throughout his illustrious career, Azhar Ali has played several memorable innings that have left an indelible mark on cricket enthusiasts worldwide. One such innings was his unbeaten 92 against England, which showcased his resilience and ability to anchor the innings. Another significant achievement was during the South Africa series in November 2010, where he played crucial knocks in both innings of the first Test, helping Pakistan secure a draw. His partnership with the returning Younus Khan was particularly noteworthy.

In the series against Sri Lanka in 2012, Azhar was a force to be reckoned with. He scored 96 in the 2nd ODI and an unbeaten 81 in the 4th ODI, becoming only the second Pakistani after Saeed Anwar to carry his bat through an innings. His form continued in the Test series, where he scored back-to-back centuries, propelling him into the Top-10 of the ICC Test Rankings for the first time.

Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of his career was during the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. Azhar Ali, along with Fakhar Zaman, set up a partnership of 118 runs against England, the highest for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy. Their partnership of 128 runs in the final against India was instrumental in Pakistan's victory by a staggering 180 runs, the largest margin of victory for any team in an ICC tournament final.

Challenges and Criticisms

Like any sportsman at the pinnacle of his career, Azhar Ali too faced his share of challenges and criticisms. His journey, while filled with numerous highs, was not devoid of lows that tested his mettle and resilience.

One of the most significant challenges Azhar faced was during his tenure as the ODI captain. Following Misbah-ul-Haq's retirement, Azhar was handed the reins of a team in transition. The decision to appoint him, especially given his two-year hiatus from ODI cricket, was met with scepticism from various quarters. His initial stint as captain was rocky, with Pakistan facing a series whitewash against Bangladesh. Despite his personal contributions with the bat, Azhar faced criticism for his leadership style and the team's overall performance.

The tour of England in 2016 further intensified the scrutiny. While Azhar's individual performance in the Test series was commendable, the ODI series was a different story. Pakistan's 4-1 series loss, including a defeat where England posted a world record score of 444 runs, raised questions about his captaincy. Critics pointed out his defensive approach and low personal scoring rate as factors contributing to the team's lacklustre performance. Rumours about him stepping down as captain were rife, but Azhar, with his characteristic determination, chose to soldier on, expressing his commitment to the role.

Legacy and Impact on Pakistani Cricket

Despite the challenges and criticisms, Azhar Ali's legacy in Pakistani cricket is undeniable. His contributions go beyond the runs he scored or the matches he won as a captain. Azhar's impact is best understood by looking at the era of Pakistani cricket he represented - a period of transition, challenges, and resurgence.

Azhar's technical prowess and temperament made him a mainstay in the Pakistani batting lineup, especially in Test cricket. His ability to play long, gritty innings in challenging conditions made him a reliable figure in the team. His triple century against the West Indies in a Day and Night Test Match is a testament to his skill and endurance, an innings that will be remembered for years to come.

Beyond his batting, Azhar's leadership during a transitional phase for the Pakistani team was crucial. Taking over the reins from Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar had the challenging task of leading a young team while maintaining his performance as a top-order batter. His calm and composed demeanour, both on and off the field, served as an inspiration for younger players. Under his leadership, players like Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman flourished, showcasing the nurturing environment he fostered.

Furthermore, Azhar's commitment to the game and his country was evident in his decision to continue playing despite criticisms. His resilience in the face of adversity, his ability to bounce back from challenges, and his unwavering dedication serve as a lesson for budding cricketers.

Azhar Ali's journey in international cricket is a tale of dedication, resilience, and unwavering commitment. From his early days in Lahore to his rise as one of the pillars of Pakistani cricket, Azhar's story is one of perseverance and passion. While his career had its share of highs and lows, his legacy is defined by his contributions to the game and the impact he left on Pakistani cricket.

In an era marked by challenges and transitions, Azhar stood tall, serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration for many. His technical prowess, coupled with his leadership abilities, made him one of the most revered figures in the sport. Beyond the records and accolades, Azhar's true legacy lies in the values he embodied - dedication, resilience, and an undying love for the game.

As the curtains come down on his illustrious career, Azhar Ali leaves behind a legacy that will inspire generations to come. His journey serves as a testament to what one can achieve with determination, hard work, and an unwavering belief in oneself. Azhar Ali, the pillar of Pakistan's Test cricket, will forever be remembered as a legend of the game.

Who is Azhar Ali?
Azhar Ali is a renowned Pakistani cricketer known for his contributions in Test cricket.
When did Azhar Ali make his Test debut?
Azhar Ali made his Test debut in July 2010 against Australia at Lord's.
Has Azhar Ali ever captained the Pakistani cricket team?
Yes, Azhar Ali took over ODI captaincy for Pakistan following Misbah-ul-Haq's retirement.
What is Azhar Ali's highest score in Test cricket?
Azhar Ali's highest Test score is an unbeaten 302 against the West Indies.
Which Pakistani cricketer scored a century in a Day and Night Test match?
Azhar Ali became the first to score a century, double, and triple century in a Day and Night Test match.