Shoaib Malik has been handed the Pakistan captaincy, which has resembled something of a poisoned chalice in recent years, for Friday's Twenty20 international against Australia. With Shahid Afridi banned for two T20 clashes after being found guilty of ball tampering and Mohammed Yousuf not part of the squad, the Pakistan Cricket Board have moved quickly to fill the void, with Malik reclaiming the role he landed in May 2007, leading Pakistan in three Tests and 36 ODIs.
Malik inherits a side in the doldrums following their whitewash at the hands of Australia in both the Test and ODI series. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) vowed yesterday to address major failings, with former players demanding a purge from the top. "A full-time analysis is needed and we will definitely take corrective measures to improve the performance of our national team," said Wasim Bari, the PCB chief operating officer. "We, at the PCB, are as disappointed as any other cricket fan," he added.
After Pakistan's fourth defeat in the ODI series on Friday, protesters burnt an effigy of PCB chairman Ijaz Butt and demanded his dismissal. A symbolic funeral for Pakistan cricket was also held recently in southern city of Hyderabad. "Fans expect a lot from the team and after the defeat they vented their anger," said Bari, a former captain and wicketkeeper. "But we are going to address the grey areas and do our best to remove those flaws. The top weakness is in our fielding," he acknowledged.
"Nearly 30 dropped catches on the tour of Australia and New Zealand and six, seven run-outs speak of the great weakness in fielding and we are looking for a specialist fielding coach to improve this area. "If we improve our fielding and show character in matches then we can give tough times to all the teams in the world and we have done that in the past." Salman Butt, the opening batsman, last week hinted at major changes in team captaincy and management as two of the contributing factors towards their dire performances.
Yousuf, the veteran batsman, was appointed captain after Younus Khan withdrew from the tour of New Zealand and made himself unavailable for the Test series in Australia. But former pacemen Sarfraz Nawaz and Abdul Qadir demanded change in the PCB. "The officials of the PCB have failed to deliver," said Nawaz. "There must be change at the top and if that doesn't happen our performance will not improve."
Pakistan's chief selector Iqbal Qasim has already resigned. Qadir said others must also leave. "We need a new set-up because the incumbent officials have failed," said Qadir. "We need new blood in the team and if that comes from the Under 19 team it would help the team grow in the longer run."
* With agencies