The Pakistan board has reiterated its faith in Shoaib Malik as captain and insist he will remain in the post as originally planned till December 2008.
Malik's position has come under intense scrutiny following Test and ODI series defeat to India, a second successive reverse in both formats following the loss to South Africa at home. His cause wasn't helped by an ankle injury which kept him out of the final two Tests against India, both of which were drawn. A number of ex-players, including Imran Khan and Javed Miandad, have questioned the wisdom of Malik as Test captain when he has yet to establish himself fully as a Test batsman.
"We will stick to our decision to name him as captain for the year (2008)," said Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman. "We will give him our full backing and we feel he can mature into a good captain in time. He is young and he will learn from his mistakes."
The backing for Malik came in the wake of a board meeting constituted specifically to review Pakistan's poor performances in India. The board also decided to prevent players from writing articles during series and concentrate solely on the cricket while on tour. There was criticism of the surge in Pakistani players' extra-curricular media activities: many were writing for newspapers and a number had separate TV commitments as well. One column by Younis Khan, in particular, seems to have caught the board's attention. As stand-in captain for the second Test in Kolkata, Younis distanced himself from the team selection, hinting that he might not have been happy with the composition, in a column for Hindustan Times.
The role of Geoff Lawson, Pakistan's coach, in his side's performances will also come under the scanner. The board has asked Lawson to explain Pakistan's generally unimpressive and insipid performances, which led to their first series loss in India for 27 years.
Ashraf told The News that Lawson has been asked for a detailed report on how he plans to lift the team for future assignments including the home series against Australia in March.
"We believe that our team didn't show much mental toughness and professionalism during the tour of India," Ashraf said. "It is the responsibility of the coach to lift his team and we are certainly going to talk to Lawson about it," he added.
Ashraf was quick, however, to add that the board still has complete faith in Lawson. "He will remain our coach and we are hopeful Pakistan will become a force under his wings."
Though the board has yet to read fully the tour reports handed in by the team management, immediate changes are not expected. The participation of national players in domestic tournaments was again stressed, and three camps, for bowlers, wicketkeepers and openers, have also been arranged for after the domestic Twenty20 tournament.