KARACHI - Pakistan cricket captain Azhar Ali Thursday urged his team to pick up their game after they slumped to ninth in the one-day international rankings, equalling their worst ever.

The latest International Cricket Council (ICC) ranking is "worrying", Azhar Ali told AFP -- and Pakistan's prospects for improving appear bleak as they face "challenging" top teams in coming weeks. If they cannot pull out of the slump by next year to break into the top eight, they face having to play a qualifying round for the 2019 World Cup for the first time ever.

Pakistan was briefly ranked ninth after losing to 3-0 to Bangladesh in April last year, but managed to reach eighth before being knocked back once more in the ICC's annual international rankings released Wednesday.

Azhar was optimistic his team could rise again. "We are aware of the latest rankings, which are worrying," he said. "We know we have to beat top teams to rise in the rankings and we are quite determined to do that." Pakistan are in search of a new coach after Waqar Younis resigned following the team's failure to reach the semi-finals in the World Twenty20 in India last month.

Azhar said he hoped a new coach and the recently appointed chief selector -- former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq -- would sit down to plan a strategy.  "I think a new selection committee and a new coach will help plan things and I am optimistic that the boys will lift their performances... which we badly need." Pakistan plays five one-day internationals in England in August, then two in Ireland before facing the West Indies for up to five matches. They then tour Australia early next year for six one-days. "For me, our schedule is challenging," Azhar admitted. "But we know that beating England and Australia will lift our rankings. "England will be tough ... We have to be at our best and the only way we can improve our rankings is to beat better and higher-ranked teams."

He said his team often lets opportunities pass by in ODIs. "If you look at our series in New Zealand (in January) we should have won that, but we slipped from good positions and lost matches," he said. Australia are top of the one-day rankings while England are sixth.