Pakistan v Australia 2010 July 18, 2010

Malik the 'obvious' choice for captain - Lawson

Cricinfo staff

Geoff Lawson, Pakistan's former coach, believes Salman Butt's appointment as captain of the Test side is premature and could do him more harm than good, and that Shoaib Malik should have been the "obvious choice" to replace Shahid Afridi, who retired from Tests after Pakistan's 150-run loss in the first Test at Lord's.

"Butt's a good choice as vice-captain but he's years away from being a captain," Lawson told The Express Tribune. "I would've let him concentrate on his batting because he's probably the best batsman they have right now. He has captaincy potential but throwing him in at this stage will crucify him."

Lawson took up the role of Pakistan's coach after Bob Woolmer's death at the 2007 World Cup and took the side to the finals of the inaugural World Twenty20 tournament, but was dismissed by the PCB a year and a half into his two-year contract after a string of poor performances.

Shoaib Malik was captain during Lawson's tenure but it was a troubled stint and he was replaced by Younis Khan after Pakistan conceded an ODI series to Sri Lanka with a massive 234-run thrashing in Lahore in January 2009.

"It might've been premature to name him captain then. But three years on, he's certainly capable of being captain again," said Lawson. "To me, he's the obvious choice. He's well respected by the younger players and the seniors that had problems with him aren't in the team.

Malik briefly regained the captaincy for two Twenty20 games against England in Dubai in February this year after Afridi, the regular captain, was banned for two matches after being found guilty of ball-tampering during an ODI in Australia. Less than a month later, Malik was banned for a year during one of the PCB's deepest culls of the senior cricket team in many years, during which seven of its top players were banned or fined after the side's shambolic, winless tour of Australia.

The ban was lifted on appeal two months later and he returned to the squad for the Asia Cup in June. Though Malik has denied an interest in the Pakistan captaincy, Lawson believes he has matured as a cricketer and his reappointment would be a progressive move by the PCB.

"In 2007, he was a reluctant captain. He was young and wanted to concentrate on his cricket. Now he's matured and given Pakistan's penchant for changing captains regularly, I'd say you should give it to him and move forward.

"Malik did a good job as captain and at that time he was learning how to lead a side. He was taking the right steps in the right direction and if he's named as Afridi's successor, I don't think it'll be a step backwards by the Pakistan Cricket Board."