LAHORE     -     Pakistan’s newly-appointed Test captain Azhar Ali has said that his main aim is to improve the team’s international ranking and turn make it a winning combination by displaying fearless cricket.

Addressing his maiden press conference as Test captain here at Gaddafi Stadium on Friday, Azhar said: “There are a lot of challenges, which are being faced by the national Test team but my prime target is to improve the team’s ranking, which is at number seven.”

He was confident about taking the responsibility as Test team skipper and said: “I had prepared myself mentally to accept the captaincy as I consulted my seniors in the game and my family members and then decided to accept this great opportunity.

“It is a big honour that the PCB has put faith in me and honoured me with a big job of leading the Test side. I will try my best to lift the team’s performance and perform to a higher level to be an inspiration for the fellow colleagues.  “The upcoming Australia tour, where the national side will play two Tests, will have a lot of challenges and it is going to be the first test of my captaincy and I look forward to this series with confidence and hope that we will be able to play quality cricket in Australia,” he added.

Azhar said as a captain, he will endeavour to make Pakistan a Test team, having potential of serving the longest format of the game for quite long time. He paid rich tributes to the outgoing captain, Sarfraz Ahmad, saying he did a lot to enhance the team’s performance and image in Test cricket. He also thanked Sarfraz for extending good wishes to him as new captain and added that Sarfraz was a fighter player having the ability to make a comeback in the team.

The new skipper said that he enjoys greater coordination with head coach and chief selector, Misbah-ul-Haq, with whom he had played a lot of cricket in the past. “I will be enjoying working with Misbah, while taking benefit from his status and expertise in cricket.”

He called upon the team members to play fearless cricket, setting aside pressure and display best of their abilities during the Test series in Australia. He termed the ICC Test Championship a tough event saying teams participating in it were better and superior in ranking as compared to Pakistan and urged his players to get united to showcase collective efforts for achieving desired results. “I have not been appointed captain for a short term as leading the team for a shorter time puts the leader under pressure and PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani has assured me of his full backing and support saying that it is not a short-term assignment for me,” he said and added: “I don’t know about the time period of my captaincy, what I know that I have enough time to improve my team and my performance as well to accomplish the task assigned to me.”

To a query, he made it clear that he would be having a say in the final team selection. “Our track record in Australia is not good; we will be missing pacer Muhammad Amir and all-rounder Wahab Riaz, but at the same time, it would be a new opportunity for us to prove ourselves in Australia and to get benefit from the talent of new and young players of the team,” said the captain.

Azhar said he would bat at the number, where the team needs his services so that he could contribute in a more professional way. He said it was a coincidence when he took over as one-day captain in the past, the team was at number seven and now when he has been appointed test captain the team has the same ranking and he will be going all out for transforming his experience of test cricket to the young players in order to infuse confidence in them and to be a role model by putting up good performance.  “By doing good for the team is the best way that your legacy should also be remembered,” he said. “Test cricket is not easy but I have a faith in the young talent in the ranks and I fully need their support for teams good performance in Australia. In two days time, we will be finalising our squad for the tour of Australia,” he added.