Younis could still return as captain - Ijaz Butt
The door has not been shut on Younis Khan returning to the Pakistan captaincy after he takes some time out from the game to, in his own words, "get himself together." Younis walked away from the post on Wednesday, wanting to take a rest and skip the New Zealand series after saying he had "lost command" over his team.
Though his future plans are currently unclear, Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman who just weeks ago said Younis would remain captain - provided he is selected and fit - till the 2011 World Cup, insists that he remains an option to lead Pakistan, possibly on the tour to Australia, once he has returned.
"We have a long-term plan in place," Butt told Cricinfo, "and we will review that once we get together over the next few days to discuss this. Younis wanted a rest and we have given him that. But when he comes back we will most definitely consider him as an option for captaincy."
Cricinfo understands that, as the situation currently stands, Younis is unlikely to come back as captain. Implicit in his comments over the decision was the acknowledgement that he had not been able to overcome differences with a group of senior players in the team unhappy with his leadership. Sources close to Younis say that he does not want to continue leading in the current environment where players are actively trying to undermine him.
Butt, however, played down the matter, denying that Younis had, in effect, stepped down in the face of a players' revolt. "I don't believe in that at all. Every time we lose a match or a series, this kind of speculation comes out and there is nothing like that in it. Younis wanted a rest and we have given that to him."
Pakistan will now travel to New Zealand for a three-Test series with Mohammad Yousuf in charge - their third captain of the year and fourth if you count Shahid Afridi as the Twenty20 captain - and Kamran Akmal as his deputy. Yousuf has captained Pakistan in three Tests previously, though each time was as stand-in for Inzamam-ul-Haq. Yousuf was in the running for the captaincy after Inzamam's retirement in 2007, though he was overlooked as Shoaib Malik took over.
Reportedly unhappy over the move, Yousuf had a public falling out with Malik, joining the ICL in 2008 - after turning his back on them in 2007 - in protest and singling out Malik and the selection committee as the sole reasons for doing so. Incidentally, Malik is widely believed to be one of the main men unhappy with Younis' leadership and the speculation in Pakistan is that he is making a move for the post himself. But there was apparently little disagreement among the Pakistan think-tank over the choice of Yousuf as an alternative to Younis.
"We consulted the options among ourselves and we came to the conclusion that Yousuf is the ideal alternative," Butt said. "There were no disagreements over the choice and we are confident he can do the job."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo