Salman Butt's appointment as vice-captain June 26, 2007

Manager plays down reports of dissent

Cricinfo staff

Is Salman Butt a popular choice to the post of vice-captain? © AFP

Talat Ali, manager of the Pakistan team, has dampened down rumours of disgruntlement within the side over the appointment of Salman Butt as vice-captain, saying there is "complete harmony" among players.

Local reports over the last few days have said that senior members of the team are unhappy with the promotion of Butt to Shoaib Malik's deputy. The move surprised many when it was announced, given that Butt had only just returned to the side after a spell on the sidelines and also his general inexperience: he has only played 14 Tests and 26 ODIs since his debut in 2003. He replaced Mohammad Asif, who was vice-captain for one series against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi.

"There is complete harmony in my team and if some people are saying otherwise then they have malicious intentions," Ali told The News. "These are false reports. There have been no revolts and there will be no revolts. Our team is slowly turning into a well-oiled unit and we are looking forward our future assignments," he added.

His comments came a day after it was alleged that the manager had a showdown with Shahid Afridi during the team's recently-concluded training camp in Abbottabad. The incident is said to have occurred on the team bus after training. Butt entered the bus only to find the best seats already taken up.

Ali apparently asked Afridi, one of the most experienced members of the side, to offer his seat to the "new vice-captain", which led to harsh words being exchanged. Ali said the incident had been blown out of proportion and was "no big deal."

"I just said (to some of the junior players) that one of you should offer his seat to Salman, he is your vice-captain. It was Afridi who said that 'he can take my seat, after all he is the vice-captain'. I told him (Afridi) to stay where he is and that some junior boy would vacate his seat but he was insistent and I had to tell him firmly to stop it. That is all that happened and now people are trying to make stories of it," he explained.

Ali admitted, however, that Afridi sounded a "bit sarcastic" in his offer. "He did sound a bit bitter but that was all."

The incident is the latest in Pakistan cricket's attempts to wean away the hierarchical structure where seniority, of years and matches, and not always performance holds sway in decision-making. The appointment of Malik as captain was seen as one step and the imminent introduction of central contracts which give heavy weightage to performances in the preceding year is another. The promotion of Butt, still not a regular in either form of the game, is seen by many as possibly a step too far.