I am aware that this sounds ludicrous to a Pakistani audience.

Azhar Ali has just had a superb year, in which he has hit centuries in England and Australia and cemented his position as Pakistan's best opener since Saeed Anwar.

And of course Pakistan has a culture which seems to extend respect for elders into inappropriate domains like cricket, with the consequence that Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq were carried around long into their forties, when their only consistency against good attacks outside Asia was their consistent failure.

But let's be serious about Azhar Ali.

I wrote in another thread that he is the same age as Alastair Cook and AB De Villiers, who are coming to the very end of their Test careers. The response from @Abdullah719 was "yes, but he hasn't got their earning capacity beyond international cricket."

That is a very good point, but I'm not sure that it is the right point.

We know from decades of experience what happens to class batsmen after the age of 32, and it is exactly what happened to Younis Khan, but also to Gordon Greenidge and Allan Border before him.

They lose the ability to consistently score runs, especially away from home. Their undoubted class means that once in a while they will make a huge innings - Gordon Greenidge scored 223 in his penultimate Test.

Those occasional huge innings make their average look more intact than it really is. But they fail in at least 3/4 of their innings away from home, and the impact upon their team is that it loses again and again and again.

Allan Border scored 21 centuries in his 89 Tests before the age of 32.
He scored 6 centuries in 67 Tests after the age of 32.

We are already seeing a significant decline in the output of Alastair Cook. He does not give his team the regular sound starts, but like Younis Khan he makes a massive innings once in a while.

In some ways, believe it or not, the early signs are already there with Azhar Ali.

These are his Test returns from the last year:

v England away averaged 42.14.
But take away his innings of 139, and he averaged 26 in his other 7 innings.

v West Indies at home averaged 94.80
But take away his innings of 302 not out, and he averaged 34.40 in his other 5 innings.

v New Zealand away averaged 26.25

v Australia away averaged 81.20
But take away his innings of 205 not out on a dead wicket at the MCG, and he averaged 40.20 in his other 5 innings.

v West Indies away averaged 43.50
But take away his innings of 127, and in his other 5 innings he averaged just 26.80

In other words, Azhar Ali may be Pakistan's top Test batsman currently, but he is already exhibiting the early signs of age-related inconsistency.

The warning signs are already there.

Interestingly, the reason that I no longer support the return of Salman Butt is because he is exactly the same age as Azhar Ali, and I believe a Test team can only carry one such player with age-related inconsistency. The careers of the two men betray that Butt was always the better batsman - that's why he was established in the Test team and elevated to the captaincy, while Azhar was still not an established member of the team. There simply isn't room for both, and Azhar is the one who deserves the place.

I fully support Azhar Ali remaining in the Test team for now. But Mickey Arthur has always opposed having more than 1 player over the age of 32 in his international teams for the reasons that I have just outlined, and it remains to be seen whether Azhar Ali will be allowed to drag the team down outside Asia the way that Younis and Misbah did every time they came up against decent bowling.