KARACHI // The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) sprang a major surprise by appointing Misbah-ul-Haq as the captain for the upcoming Test series against South Africa in the UAE.
While Shahid Afridi was retained as captain for the limited-overs matches, the appointment of Misbah is a surprise given that he was only recalled to the national team on Thursday for the one-day internationals and Twenty20s against South Africa after a six-month hiatus.
The 36-year-old, who has never captained Pakistan in Test matches, last played in the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and his last Test appearance was in January against Australia in Sydney. His return to the team and appointment as captain is seen as a stop-gap move by the board after the suspension of Salman Butt due to spot-fixing allegations. Aamir Sohail, the former selector and opening batsman, said the logical choice for Test captain was Younus Khan. "But apparently the board chairman has his issues with Younus," the former Test captain said. "Misbah is a short-term appointment until the board resolves its dispute with Younus."
Younus was among seven players banned or fined by the PCB following the team's poor showing on a tour of Australia. Iqbal Qasim, the former chief selector, said he was astonished at the decision to appoint Misbah as captain for the two-Test series. The first is at Dubai Sports City (November 12-16) and the second at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi (November 20-24).
"I am shocked and in future I am not going to talk on Pakistan cricket, the affairs are in a shamble," Qasim said. "How can they continue to ignore Younus when he is available?"
The Pakistan selectors announced a new-look squad for the two Tests by recalling Taufeeq Umar, the opening batsman, for the first time since he played against England in August 2006. Mohammad Sami, who was dropped after the Australian tour, has also been recalled, while selectors also showed faith in youngsters Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Zulqarnain Haider. They have also relied heavily on spinners, selecting three specialists in Danish Kaneria, Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman.
The inclusion of Kaneria is another U-turn by the selectors as the leg-spinner was dropped after the first Test against England in the summer.