Shoaib Malik has been appointed captain of Pakistan. He will lead both the Test and ODI sides until at least the end of 2007, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced on Thursday.
As had been widely expected, Nasim Ashraf, chairman of the PCB, confirmed the appointment at a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore this afternoon. Malik, who succeeds Inzamam-ul Haq, becomes the 25th player to lead Pakistan.
Malik told Cricinfo of his elation at the appointment, but added that returning the team to winning ways would make him happier. "I am honoured and thrilled at the opportunity. But only when I can bring all the players together and get them winning again will I be really happy," he said.
Ashraf stressed that Malik was the best man for the job and a unanimous choice. "He is the future of cricket. He has intelligence and he has a good cricketing mind. Malik is the personality to get the best from players both senior and junior."
One body of Pakistani opinion has felt that Malik is too young and possibly not experienced enough for the job but Malik himself dismissed the concerns, arguing that he was ready. "I am ready. I may not have had much experience domestically of leading sides but I have learnt a lot under Inzamam's time. He spoke to me regularly when he was captain and I kept picking things up from him."
Malik's appointment comes after Inzamam's decision to retire from ODIs and concentrate on Test matches only as a player. Younis Khan, vice captain for two years and widely tipped to succeed Inzamam as captain, rejected the PCB's offer to lead Pakistan, citing the mental strain involved in the job.
But Malik revealed that he had no hesitation at jumping at the offer. "I had been sounded out about it a couple of times recently. But as soon as the offer was made, I said yes straightaway. It's such a big honour and to lead Pakistan through difficult times is such a big challenge. I am going to give it my best shot and that is all I can do."
He was also quick to dismiss suggestions that he might struggle to obtain support from players in the side who might be unsure and unhappy that someone with a relative lack of experience has been appointed captain. "I am confident that all the players will support and co-operate with me."
Malik has played 137 ODIs since his international debut in 1999 and it is as an ODI player that he has established himself, becoming one of Pakistan's most consistent and versatile batsmen over the last two years. He has also taken over a hundred wickets and is one of the best fielders in the side.
He has only played 18 Tests since his debut in 2001, though only recently has he become a regular member of the Test side.