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Yousuf throws his hat in the captaincy ring

Mohammad Yousuf has thrown his hat into the ring as a willing contender for Pakistan's cricket captaincy a day after Younis Khan turned down the offer.

Though Yousuf has not been offered the post, one that must be cricket's toughest job at the moment, he told telepk.com that he would be more than willing to accept it if the offer was made. "The PCB has not contacted me but I have no problem leading the team."

Younis refused the post citing the mental strain the job would bring with it but Yousuf shrugged aside such concerns, even hinting that he was, by rights, next in line.

"I don't see any kind of pressure in the job. I think I'm a worthy candidate as in the last year I have really proven myself. It has always been an honour to represent Pakistan and it would be a real pleasure to lead the team at this difficult time."

Yousuf has captained Pakistan in three Tests, winning one against South Africa at Lahore and losing the other two to Australia in 2004-05 at Melbourne and Sydney. Until Younis took over as vice-captain, Yousuf had held the post since the 2003 World Cup.

"I'm a senior player now and I have previous leadership experience," Yousuf said. "We won that Test against South Africa and in Australia as captain, I made a hundred. And before that, I was vice-captain so I am confident I can do the job justice."

Yousuf, who broke the long-standing record of most Test runs in a calendar year in 2006 and was chosen as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year, stressed the need for a swift decision. "Whoever is selected, it should be done soon. Ideally, a good step would be to appoint an experienced player and allow him to groom a youngster for the role.

"In the past, in Pakistan sides, there have always been many ex-captains or players who wanted to lead and that hurt the team. That has to be avoided this time."

In much of the captaincy talk, Yousuf's name has been conspicuously downplayed by the board's decision-makers. The accent has been on youth; Shoaib Malik has been repeatedly mentioned, so too Salman Butt.

A few players, however, have voiced concerns about opting for youth, purely for the sake of it, over an established name. "The names mentioned are all players who aren't really sure of their places in the side. To burden them with leadership isn't a good move," said one.

Another added, "This is Pakistan, not a club or department team. Whoever is chosen should be a regular, proven performer. Some of the younger candidates mentioned haven't even performed well recently. How can they be expected to lead a team in which their own position is not certain?"

It suggests that an investment in youth might not be universally popular within the team, potentially leaving the board already worrying about future dissent. Just how much of a quandary the board is rooted in is evidenced by the fact that there has still been no official reaction to Younis's decision, more than a day after the event.



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