Misbah returns, no captain named
Pakistan have announced a 15-man squad to take on South Africa in two T20s and five ODIs later this month in the UAE, but surprisingly not named a captain.
Shahid Afridi has been - bans, punishments and Test retirements notwithstanding - the limited-overs captain since June this year and is in the squad but not yet as leader. No selector was available to comment on the decision. The chairman Ijaz Butt, selectors and management were involved in a day-long meeting at Gaddafi Stadium and the issue of naming a captain is thought to have been discussed only briefly. One official who attended that meeting told ESPNcricinfo that Butt insisted a captain would be announced later.
Predictably, the non-announcement has already sparked speculation of possible disharmony. One TV channel reported that a negative report against Afridi's leadership during the England tour from the team management has led to the decision to not name a captain yet. Afridi was outside the country on a commercial assignment and only returned on Thursday.
The other surprise is the return, yet again, of Misbah-ul-Haq to bolster the middle order. Misbah was dropped from the set-up after the winless tour of Australia earlier in the year - he had only gone on that tour after the original decision to axe him was reversed - as the selectors looked to move towards younger options. But an impressive Man-of-the-Tournament performance in the RBS ODI cup earlier this year - where he top-scored with 490 runs at 163.33 - won him a return to the national team. Azhar Ali and Umar Amin, who have both been part of at least one ODI squad since June and were loudly trumpeted as the future, have been left out.
The team will also be without Kamran Akmal who has just undergone an appendicitis operation. Zulqarnain Haider, who replaced Akmal for one Test in the summer against England and scored a valiant 88, has been given an opportunity to build on that first impression.
Pakistan will already be without two key ODI players in Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir, both of whom are provisionally suspended by the ICC for their alleged involvement in a spot-fixing scandal during the England tour. Mohammad Asif, the third suspended player, would not have been eligible for selection in any case as he is barred from entering the UAE. There continues to be no place in the side for a pair of former captains, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik.
There have been key changes in the management as well, the most significant being the return of Intikhab Alam as manager of the side. Intikhab, a veteran manager, takes over from Yawar Saeed. He was also coach of the side until earlier this year and in an inquiry committee after the Australia tour in January called his players "mentally retarded", as well as suspecting the motives of some of them in the now infamous Sydney Test loss.
Ijaz Ahmed, the batting and fielding coach on recent tours, has not been re-appointed. David Dwyer, the popular trainer who arrived with former coach Geoff Lawson, has also not been retained after the series in England.
Pakistan squad: Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Shoaib Akhtar, Tanvir Ahmed, Zulqarnain Haider (wk).
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo