Salman Butt named captain for rest of England tour
As was widely expected Salman Butt has been appointed Pakistan's Test captain for the rest of the summer in England, including the second Test against Australia in Headingley. Butt becomes the fifth man to lead the Test side since January 2009 and the 28th man to lead Pakistan, taking over from Shahid Afridi who announced a sudden retirement from Test cricket on Friday. Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal will be his deputy.
The decision came early on Saturday after a meeting between the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt, the team management and a group of senior players including Shoaib Malik, Akmal, Umar Gul and Salman. "We have appointed Salman as the captain for the rest of the Tests and we are confident that he will be able to do a good job with it," Ijaz told Cricinfo. "Everybody who was involved in the decision gave their approval."
At the time of Afridi's appointment, in May this year, Salman's name had come up in discussions though, as the administration was keen to unify the leadership of all formats under one man, they plumped for Afridi. Salman was appointed his deputy and though it seemed that he would take over yesterday, the PCB chairman had said that it wasn't an "automatic" decision.
However, steadily over the last six months, Salman has become one of Pakistan's most reliable batsmen across all formats; he's averaging over 40 in his last seven Tests with one hundred and four fifties and reinvented his entire game to shine at the World T20 in the Caribbean, a format in which he had previously struggled. In the Lord's Test, he was comfortably Pakistan's best batsman, top-scoring in each innings with 63 and 92.
There had been talk in the aftermath of the Lord's defeat that one of Mohammad Yousuf or Younis Khan - or both - might be called up to bolster an inexperienced middle order but for now the situation remains unchanged and unresolved. Yousuf is officially retired from international cricket and Younis and the PCB chairman are at odds despite the former's indefinite ban having been lifted.
"We did discuss both Yousuf and Younis in the meeting but we decided to defer the matter," Ijaz said, acknowledging also that the option to call them up at some point during the summer remains open. "I think we should appreciate that both the youngsters Azhar Ali and Umar Amin did very well given it was their debuts and my own feeling is that they should be persisted with," he added.
One person who will not be playing in the second Test is Afridi. Though he cited his temperamental unsuitability to the format, Afridi was also suffering from a side strain he picked up during the Asia Cup. "I worked out in the gym in the morning and I don't feel comfortable at all still. I will not be playing next week," Afridi told Cricinfo.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo