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LAHORE – Azhar Ali has been retained as Pakistan’s ODI captain for the five-match series against Australia starting January 13 in Brisbane.

The 31-year-old opening batsmen had reportedly refused to relinquish the captaincy after the Pakistan Cricket Board asked him to step down and focus on his batting following the 4-1 series defeat in England.

rrtAzhar has had a tough 19 months since he was appointed ODI captain in March 2015, soon after the World Cup. During his tenure, Pakistan had slipped to ninth place on the ICC rankings, with 86 points, their lowest tally since the points system was introduced in 2001.

A day before the first Test against Australia, PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said the board had lost trust in Azhar’s leadership skills. Azhar responded with 324 runs in his next four innings, including an unbeaten 205 at the MCG.

Azhar Ali has now moved up 10 places to now be ranked a career-high sixth in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Player Rankings for Test Batsmen.

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While Azhar’s scores of 205 not out and 43 in the second Test against Australia in Melbourne could not prevent Pakistan from going 2-0 down in the three-Test series, his consistent performances throughout the year enabled him to find his way up from 20th at the start of 2016.

“The ODI team has been selected keeping in mind the conditions in Australia and the performances of players in the recent ODI series against West Indies and in domestic cricket,” Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chief selector, said.

“The team is a fine blend of experience and youth, and the selectors have decided to stick to the same combination of players selected for the West Indies series earlier. We believe that the team will do well in the tour,” he added.

Fast bowler Mohammad Irfan, who missed the limited-overs as well as Test series against West Indies in the UAE, returns to the ODI squad, while Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah, who were in the squad for the ODIs against West Indies, have been dropped, cricketing website espncricinfo.com reports.

Irfan, who had been drafted into the squad for the ODIs in England as a replacement for the injured Mohammad Hafeez, bowled only five overs in the fourth ODI at Headingley, before leaving the field with cramps.

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He was then ruled out of the rest of the series, with his fitness leaving coach Mickey Arthur frustrated.

Yasir’s exclusion means Pakistan have only two frontline spinners in the 15-member squad – Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz.

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Kamran Akmal, who was the only player to pass 1000 runs in this season’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, was in contention for selection, but a reported disagreement between the team management and selectors saw him miss the cut.

His brother Umar Akmal had earned a recall for the ODIs against West Indies, but he did not get a game. His last ODI appearance came against Australia in the 2015 World Cup.

Pakistan ODI squad

Azhar Ali (capt.), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafique, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan

In: Mohammad Irfan

Out: Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah