Shahid Afridi named Pakistan captain
The Pakistan Cricket Board ended weeks of uncertainty, by appointing Shahid Afridi to lead the country's campaign to defend the World Twenty20 title in the Caribbean from the end of next month. Afridi will once again take up the role he was given last year, after Younis Khan stepped away from the format, though he has for now only been handed the role for the duration of the tournament.
"It's a challenge for me and I accept it," Afridi said. "We are going to the West Indies with only one aim and that is to defend our title."
The limit on the tenure appears to be a result of the disciplinary action Afridi has faced since he was found guilty of ball-tampering - biting the ball repeatedly - in an ODI in Perth where he was captain. Until then, Pakistan had settled on Afridi as the Twenty20 captain till the World Cup and potentially as an ODI leader as well. But after that incident Afridi's stock fell considerably.
He was banned by the ICC for two T20Is, which led to Shoaib Malik taking over, albeit reluctantly. Then, the board slapped him with a Rs 3 million ($35,000) fine for the same incident, as well as placing him under probation for six months. Any further breaches, the message is clear, and punishment could be harsher.
The board took the unusual step of announcing a 15-man squad for the tournament without naming a captain earlier this month. Since then, and despite his punishments, Afridi was the clear frontrunner among a limited pool of alternatives. He met the chairman Ijaz Butt once in that period. He is flying in to Lahore today, having collected a presidential award during the day in Karachi.
Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq and Salman Butt were thought to be in the running as well, but Afridi's record in the format - he is among the most influential all-round players in the world - and a naturally aggressive streak has made the choice an easier one.
Afridi has already led his country in three T20Is and won all of them, with little outward detriment to his own individual impact. The decision to announce the captain so late does leave open the charge, however, that neither captain nor coach - the recently-appointed Waqar Younis - had any say in the team they will be in charge of in the Caribbean.
Pakistan will be without the services of Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, both banned by the PCB, as well as the injured Sohail Tanvir. Afridi said their absences from the Caribbean campaign were unfortunate. "Rana, Malik and Tanvir could have been in my playing eleven because they had performed well in the past," he said.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo