Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo
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No official reason has been given for the move to replace a man who has led Pakistan to two ODI bilateral series wins - although against weaker sides - as well as a semi-final run in the 2011 World Cup: when contacted board chairman Ijaz Butt refused to speak on the topic. In 34 ODIs, he won 18 and lost 15 games; a stretch which included tough series against England and South Africa. However Butt had had told a television channel on Wednesday that "no assurance has been rendered to Shahid Afridi of retaining him as skipper for the upcoming one-day international matches in Ireland.
"I didn't give any assurances to anyone and we are still in the process of debating the changes for the series against Ireland which is also important," the PCB chief added.
It is likely, however, that the move came after the board decided they had had enough with Afridi's penchant for awkward public statements. The latest situation arose when Afridi returned from the Caribbean and hinted at unhappiness with coach Waqar Younis over matters of selection. The pair were never on fantastic terms - Waqar had preferred Misbah as captain for the World Cup itself - but held together through the World Cup. But differences grew between the pair during the course of the ODI series which Pakistan eventually won 3-2, Afridi unhappy at the amount of say Waqar wanted in the selection of the final XI.
Afridi was sent a showcause notice by the board and was due to meet the chairman over his comments as well as his relationship with Waqar. A report in Jang, the leading Urdu daily, said Afridi had spoken to the chairman on phone last week before flying out to the USA on a fund-raising tour on Tuesday and been assured that the situation wasn't a serious one. Board officials have also constantly downplayed the differences between the pair since Afridi's arrival, a situation which also led Mohsin Khan, chief selector, to the brink of resignation.
Last December, during the tour of New Zealand, members of the team and the board were also upset with Afridi's very public criticisms of the performances of the side in two Twenty20 losses.
Afridi took over as ODI captain properly in June last year, before the Asia Cup, having been appointed the Twenty20 captain the previous year. He was never given the leadership on a full-time basis, but first irked the board by walking away from the Test captaincy on the tour to England, one Test after being appointed. Misbah, currently the Test captain, now becomes the fifth ODI captain under the near three-year tenure of Butt; there have also been six Test captains in that time.
Afridi does retain a place in the 16-man squad for the two ODIs on May 28 and 30. Three changes have been made from the ODI squad that defeated West Indies. Opener Ahmed Shehzad, middle-order batsman Usman Salahuddin and fast bowler Sadaf Hussain have been dropped. In their place come Azhar Ali, Younis Khan and Umar Gul; Younis and Gul were both rested for the Caribbean ODI trip and Younis missed the Test series after his brother passed away.
Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan, Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Salman (wk), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Tanvir Ahmed, Junaid Khan, Hammad Azam