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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 May 2007, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Malik captaincy good for Pakistan
By Jamie Lillywhite

Shoaib Malik
Malik has much to contend with in his new position

When Inzamam-ul-Haq relinquished the Pakistan captaincy after the team's traumatic World Cup campaign there was no obvious replacement.

Given the propensity for batsmen as international captains most would have assumed that senior players Younis Khan or Mohammad Yousuf would fill the considerable void left by Inzy.

Younis quickly ruled himself out of contention but Yousuf openly revealed his desire to skipper the side.

Instead a new Pakistan selection panel chose Shoaib Malik, a versatile 25-year-old off-spinning all-rounder from the Punjab with a modest record in his eight years as an international.

Bearing in mind the often fractious nature of the Pakistan team, to the outsider the appointment of Malik to orchestrate their assorted characters might have been something of a surprise.

But, as former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal told BBC Sport, seasoned Pakistan observers regard it as a shrewd move.

"I know one thing for sure, that Bob Woolmer was very appreciative of his talents and his efforts in the team," the former all-rounder and international official revealed.

"I remember him saying personally to me that he always rated Malik as a future captain, he thought very highly of him.

Inzamam and Shoaib Malik
Malik will have Inzamam looking over his shoulder in the Test team

"A captain has to be given time to see how he commands respect.

"This is one position where you can't demand respect. That means you are not good enough; you have to command respect.

But can a player who has played only 18 Tests, scoring one century and taking 13 wickets, bring the best out of mercurial figures such as Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi?

Iqbal said: "The board and the selection committee have given a very clear message to all the members, not just the seniors, that they expect the team to give their full support to the captain and play to their best capabilities.

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"If the board or the captain feel that any player x, y or z is not giving their best to the team he will not be considered for future matches.

"It's very similar to Graeme Smith."

(The South African captain was appointed in 2003 aged 22, having played only eight Tests and 22 one-day matches.)

"Shoaib Malik has to lead from the front. He is capable of doing well for himself, his position in the team is reasonably secure."

Iqbal, who captained the side for six matches against India in 1979-80, believes that a new Pakistan selection hierarchy was determined to adopt a similarly fresh approach with their choice of leader.

Inzamam, Shoaib Akhtar and Younis Khan
The Pakistan team comprises some strong characters

This follows a turbulent recent period in which there have been drug test failures, match-fixing scandals, ball-tampering allegations, a forfeited Test and the murder of coach Bob Woolmer.

"If they had gone with Younis or Yousuf they would have been continuing with a regime that did not perform as well as it should have."

Not that Malik has been without his problems. He has twice been reported for a suspect bowling action and in 2005 was banned for one Test match after admitting throwing a domestic Twenty20 match.

Iqbal, who began his international career aged 21 and played 58 Tests and 10 ODIs between 1964-80, insists this need not be a factor. But to perhaps complicate matters further, Inzamam will continue to play in the Test team.

"By making Malik captain the Pakistan board has given the signal that they are looking for a change in direction, approach and a long-term policy.

"I am fully supportive of the appointment, it was badly needed. Of the younger order he is the only one capable of leading the side."

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