Shoaib Malik has emerged as the leading candidate for the Pakistan captaincy after discussions between Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials over the weekend. An official announcement on the decision is expected in the next two to three days.
The appointment, if Malik agrees, is likely to be till September, when the situation will be reviewed again ahead of a hectic international season that includes a full series in India and a home series against Australia.
The discussions centred on Malik and Salman Butt but it was narrowed down to the former as Butt currently does not hold down a place in either the Test or ODI sides. "In principle, a decision has been taken to offer it to Malik. There isn't really another suitable candidate around," one official told Cricinfo.
"We have a few assignments in the pipeline over the summer. There may be a series against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi and a match in England so we are talking about Malik for that. We will review the situation in September, ahead of the home season," he added.
Nasim Ashraf, chairman PCB, refused to confirm or deny that Malik would be offered the captaincy but said that a decision was imminent. "No decision has been taken yet," Ashraf told Cricinfo. "We will make the decision in the next two to three days."
Whoever does become the captain, Ashraf added, would take charge of both the Test and ODI sides and is likely to be appointed, initially, on a series-by-series basis. "We will have one captain for both. I think in Pakistan cricket, it is advisable to have one leader in charge of both sides.
"Initially the appointment will be on a series-by-series basis. But eventually, before the India tour later this year, we will make a longer-term appointment," he added.
Though Malik has only played 18 Tests, in a number of different positions in the order, he has been earmarked for leadership by a number of people over the last two years, including Bob Woolmer. He has, however, become a vital cog in Pakistan's ODI outfit and has been among the most consistent batsmen for Pakistan in that form of the game since 2004.
There is a concern that senior players might not so readily accept a younger player as captain but at least Mohammad Yousuf, who said recently he was willing to become captain if it was offered, has sought to play down those fears. "If the PCB wants to appoint a junior player as the future captain, I absolutely have no issue with it", he told reporters on Monday.
"I have never been greedy. I want to serve my country, whether as captain or as an ordinary player, that's enough honour for me."
Younis Khan was originally in place to take over as captain after Inzamam-ul-Haq's resignation and retirement from ODIs, but he turned down the offer citing the mental strain of taking on one of cricket's toughest jobs.