Intikhab Alam, Pakistan's coach, has changed his mind about the leadership credentials of Shoaib Malik, believing that his tenure should be extended beyond the end of the year.
Malik's performance is due to be reviewed by the Pakistan board's governing committee on December 31 though it is widely expected that he will be persisted with, as Pakistan's lack of international cricket has prevented a rush to judgement.
Alam's input is expected and he said he had no doubt the allrounder should continue to captain Pakistan. "I am crystal clear in my mind that Malik should continue as captain," Alam told AP.
Malik has been criticised by Mohammad Yousuf and, privately by other senior players, for being a poor communicator. But Alam said he was learning. "His attitude has changed toward other players in the team and I think that's a good sign. Malik is still learning but he will gradually be more confident if his captaincy tenure is extended," Alam said.
It represents a turnaround from Alam's comments made in September before he became coach. Then he had complained that Pakistan did not "have captaincy stuff in the present lot" and suggested Shahid Afridi as a candidate.
But he admitted that after he was appointed coach and had long meetings with Malik, he discovered a different man, particularly during the ODI series against the West Indies in Abu Dhabi last month.
"I admit that I had criticized Malik a lot, but he is a changed person now, who believes in himself and his team players," Alam said. "He showed a lot of guts in batting, bowling and leading his side. He has a good thinking cap and I think he should be given an extended run."
Malik has been impressive recently in domestic cricket, leading Sialkot Stallions to the domestic Twenty20 title and Punjab Stallions to the Pentangular ODI cup. He has led Pakistan in two Test series both of which were lost since he becoming captain last year.
He led Pakistan to a country record 12 successive ODI wins though the bulk of them came against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh earlier this year.
"Now that's not the fault of Malik if we couldn't compete against stronger teams this year," Alam said. "I firmly believe that against Sri Lanka he will give a good performance if he retains the captaincy."