KARACHI: Just a year after being rejected by team coaches as a ‘loner’ with little or no leadership qualities, Shoaib Malik has been chosen again to lead Pakistan in their one off Twenty20 International against Australia on February 5 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Malik, 28, was appointed as the Pakistan captain after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) ran out of options following the banning of Shahid Afridi for two Twenty20 Internationals after the allrounder was found guilty of ball tampering.
Afridi, Pakistan’s stand-in captain, was caught by television cameras chewing the ball during Pakistan’s fifth and final One-day International against Australia at the WACA on Sunday night.
“Shoaib Malik has been appointed as captain for the Twenty-20 against Australia in the absence of Shahid Afridi,” PCB announced in a brief statement on Monday. Just a year ago, Malik was sacked as Pakistan captain after leading his team to an embarrassingly one-sided ODI series defeat against Sri Lanka on home soil last January.
At that time, Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam and manager Yawar Saeed described Malik as a ‘loner’ and recommended that he should be replaced with Younis Khan as captain.Younis did succeed Malik as captain but after leading Pakistan to a memorable title-winning triumph in the ICC World Twenty20 championship in England last summer, he decided against carrying on and stepped down as skipper last November. He was replaced by Yousuf, who led Pakistan on the twin tour of New Zealand and Australia.
While Pakistan have been pondering about having a new captain following Mohammad Yousuf’s poor captaincy in Australia, Malik was nowhere in the picture as far as the list of possible candidates was concerned.
However, with Yousuf and Younis not in the Twenty20 squad and Afridi ineligible for the tour-ending MCG clash against the Aussies, the PCB didn’t have many players to choose from.According to insiders in the Pakistan team, the name of Test vice-captain Kamran Akmal was considered but the fumbling glovesman was overlooked because of his poor showing on the tour of Australia.
The option of appointing opening batsman Salman Butt as captain was also discussed. Even Mohammad Asif, the fast bowler who briefly served as Pakistan’s vice-captain two years ago, got a mention but in the end the PCB think-tank voted in favour of Malik.
Ironically, Malik is quite a controversial figure within his team these days.There has been a whispering campaign in the national cricket circles suggesting that Malik could be the man leading a lobby in the Pakistan team that plotted the downfall of Yousuf in Australia. In fact, sources close to Yousuf claimed that the senior batsman suspects that some of the players including Malik deliberately under-performed in Australia where Pakistan lost the Test series 3-0 and the one-day series 5-0.