Shoaib Malik re-ignited a simmering selectorial tussle when he appeared to blame the selection committee in the aftermath of Pakistan's emphatic six-wicket loss to India in the Asia Cup. Though he subsequently tried to play down his own comments, little doubt was left that the relationship between Pakistan's captain and selectors is far from a healthy one.
During an often tense press conference in Karachi, Malik, responding to a journalist's question on the composition of the team, snapped back, "When captains are given the 11 players, then you ask this question of the selectors." Reporters immediately latched on to the implication, repeatedly probing Malik about whether there was friction within the management.
Malik backtracked in spirit if not in word, testily explaining then that his thoughts and suggestions were also taken into account. "In Pakistan, selectors give the final XI," Malik said. "The captain and coach give their inputs but the selectors put down the XI. We all work together on this. Is that clear enough?"
Though the dispute has history, it is believed that the latest tiff arose from Malik's reluctance to open the innings against India, preferring to recall Nasir Jamshed. That would mean dropping Fawad Alam, who had scored a maiden fifty in the previous game against Hong Kong, an idea the selectors did not ultimately agree to. There is also reportedly disagreement over whether or not Pakistan should play a specialist offspinner, Malik, in favour of giving Saeed Ajmal a debut.
The selection committee also played down speculation about a rift. "There can be differences of opinion between selectors and the coach and captain," Salahuddin Ahmed, the Pakistan board's chief selector, "But that doesn't mean there is a rift. We always select the best XI for any game. The squad of 15 we chose for the Asia Cup was, however, approved by everyone, including the captain."
Though in isolation the development is more molehill than mountain, it is actually part of a history of unease between selectors, captain and coach in this tenure. Over time, the selection committee is thought to have become increasingly unimpressed with Malik's reluctance to bowl and his push for players such as the non-performing Kamran Akmal. During the series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh also, there were a number of heated disagreements between Geoff Lawson and the selection committee; their relationship is also a tense one.
At least in part, the friction stems from a recent board policy which gives the selection of the final XI, for home series, fully to the selectors. This policy, in turn, was a result of the disenchantment with the autocratic powers Malik's predecessor, Inzamam-ul-Haq, enjoyed during his tenure, when the final XI was unequivocally the captain's choice.