Younis Khan, Pakistan's stand-in captain, reiterated that he doesn't want the captaincy on a long-term basis, but confirmed he would lead Pakistan in the third Test in Bangalore, starting on December 8.
It finally put an end to overnight speculation that Younis was seriously considering not leading the team due to differences over team selection. But he didn't deny outright reports of a rift over selection and the parameters of his influence as stand-in captain. Instead he deflected the query, repeating that he did not want the captaincy full-time.
"I try to run away from the captaincy, but it keeps following me," he said with a smile. "Even if you see in the past I have been trying to run away from the captaincy because captaining teams like India or Pakistan means that your life is destroyed. So I always try to smile and be relaxed because my performance is affected whenever I am the captain. The more I run away from the captaincy, the more it keeps coming back and I have no choice but to take it."
Younis was named vice-captain for the tour of India, after his predecessor, Salman Butt, struggled to keep his place in the team in the ODIs against South Africa. When asked why he took up the post, if he wasn't interested in the captaincy, Younis said, "I wasn't vice-captain earlier. I was requested to take up the job for this series. This was a big series so I thought I needed to do it."
However, Younis earlier denied any rift in much clearer terms, while speaking to Dawn, a leading Pakistani English language daily. ""These reports are absolutely baseless," he was quoted as saying. "I am looking ahead to leading the side in Bangalore and there is no rift or disagreement among the players over anything. I myself have heard such rumours today but there is no truth in them at all."
Pakistan also clarified the confusion surrounding the eventual call-up of Rao Iftikhar Anjum, allegedly against Younis's wishes, who reports had it, wanted to call up Abdur Rauf. "It goes without saying that a captain should have a big say in team selection," said Younis.
"But I think the pressure gets a bit too much in these India-Pakistan series. If you win the match, you're a hero. Otherwise ... It shouldn't be that way. A captain needs support at these times, needs to be told this is probably wrong and that might have been better."
Ahsan Malik, Pakistan's media manager, attributed the confusion to a simple miscommunication. "We were told by the selectors that Rauf is coming. Later in the evening it was found out that Rao was coming. It was purely a miscommunication."
Younis also issued a clarification regarding his column in the Hindustan Times, where he had dissociated himself from the team selection for the second Test in Kolkata.
"Things were very confusing for me then," he said. "Shoaib Malik failed a fitness test at the last minute and I had to take over. I needed to take a lot of decisions in quick time. But that's over now and we're still in with a chance. I have time now and whatever team plays here, I'll try and get everyone to win the match for Pakistan."
Younis has had a unhappy tryst with the team's captaincy, having previously refused the captaincy in the immediate aftermath of the Caribbean World Cup and given it up prior to the 2006 Champions Trophy, when he was supposed to stand in for Inzamam-ul-Haq, who was completing a four-match ban. In the latter case, he was reinstated by the incoming PCB chairman, Nasim Ashraf.