Misbah-ul-Haq appointed Test captain
Misbah-ul-Haq has been appointed Pakistan's captain for the two-Test series against South Africa in Abu Dhabi in November. He becomes the fourth man, after Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi and Salman Butt, to lead Pakistan in Tests in 2010 alone, and the decision completes a remarkable and typically Pakistani comeback; earlier this year, after the Australia tour, he had been dropped from all formats of the game. In July, he was contemplating retirement.
Instead, he will now lead a 15-man squad which includes Mohammad Sami, opener Taufeeq Umar, Danish Kaneria - each of them recalled - and a first time Test call-up for Asad Shafiq, who impressed in his debut ODI series against England recently.
There are signs that the decision hasn't pleased everyone involved with selection of the squad. When asked about the reasons behind the appointment, Mohsin Khan, chief selector, told ESPNcricinfo only that "the selection committee has nothing to do with the appointment of the captain." He refused to comment about the squad.
For now, however, the main focus will be on the 36-year-old Misbah who has, over the years, never quite managed to nail down a long-term position in any Pakistan side.
Since making his Test debut in 2001, he has played only 19 Tests and the majority of those came after 2007, when he returned to the international stage after a four-year gap. Over the next year or so, Misbah enjoyed his most productive period, scoring two Test hundreds on a successful tour of India. But a run of just three half-centuries in his last 15 Test innings - despite decent returns in the limited-overs formats - resulted in his exclusion in favour of younger options.
Though the decision is surprising, as one selector told ESPNcricinfo, it has been compelled on a board short of serious options. Shahid Afridi, who was retained as ODI and T20 captain, retired from Test cricket after a one-Test return as captain in England. Salman Butt, who succeeded him and impressed, is currently suspended for his alleged role in the spot-fixing scandal that rocked the summer tour. Ijaz Butt's feud with the man who has twice walked away from the captaincy, Younis Khan, continues to rule out the latter's involvement. Yousuf was the only other credible option within the side, but after leading Pakistan to seven international losses in Australia, has not been considered again.
"Who else is there right now?" the selector said. "We'll have to wait and see how it goes of course but Misbah has plenty of domestic experience as a captain to back him up at least."
Misbah has led Pakistan once, in an Asia Cup ODI win against India when he stood in for Shoaib Malik. He was impressive both as captain and batsman in that match, during a period in which he was Malik's official deputy, and was considered by some in the team management as a potential captain. He has plenty of leadership experience domestically to draw on, having led his departmental side Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).
The board also announced on Friday their decision to retain Afridi as the limited-overs captain of Pakistan. Though the ODI and Twenty20 squads had been announced for the series on Thursday, the board did not initially name a captain. This led to speculation that Afridi might not be retained, the board claiming that the appointments were done on a series-by-series basis.
An official told ESPNcricinfo, however, that the delay came about due to the chairman's concerns about Afridi's role. "Afridi didn't get a very good report on his leadership in England from the team management," the official said. "That, and then some of his public comments recently have not impressed the board. Ultimately though it has been decided to give him another opportunity."
The series with South Africa takes in two Twenty20s, five ODIs and two Tests.
Test squad: Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah ul Haq (capt), Umar Akmal. Azhar Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Danish Kaneria, Abdur Rehman, Zulqarnain Haider, Umar Gul, Tanvir Ahmed, Mohammad Sami, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir (subject to fitness).