International Cricket

Shaheen Afridi could lose his Pakistan T20I captaincy

Shaheen Shah Afridi’s hopes of extending his brief stint as Pakistan’s T20 captain are hanging by a thread after PCB chair Mohsin Naqvi pointedly declined to confirm Afridi will continue in the role. Speaking at the launch of the selection committee, Naqvi said the newly-appointed selectors will be the ones to determine who the Pakistan captain is.

“Even I don’t know who the captain will be,” Naqvi said. “Whether Shaheen continues or a new captain comes in will be determined after the fitness camp [starting on Monday]. There are a number of technical factors we will consider, the details of which I do not want to go into. We want a long-term solution, whether it’s Shaheen or a new man. And then we intend to stick by that man, instead of just changing a captain just because you lose a match or captain.”

Afridi, who was only appointed captain of the T20I side in November, has been in the role for one series, of five matches in New Zealand, with Pakistan losing 4-1. His tactical ability as captain immediately came under intense scrutiny, though he was coming off leading his PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars to successive titles. However, the result against New Zealand was followed by a disastrous PSL campaign for Qalandars, who won just one match out of 10 in the tournament and finished bottom of the table.

It had resulted in mounting speculation around Afridi’s future, which is inevitably set to intensify following Naqvi’s comments. The PCB will name 27 players who will be sent to train with the Pakistani military in Kakul – the country’s most famous military academy – for 10 days. That the PCB has deferred a decision until after that camp concludes does buy the board further time to make their minds up.

The emphatic refusal to back Afridi as captain means Pakistan could have a third T20 skipper in five months. Babar Azam reluctantly stepped down as captain after the PCB made clear they wanted to name a replacement in November, which led to Afridi’s appointment. At the time, Afridi was the hot favourite to take over as ODI captain, too, though subsequent events have meant those prospects have receded.

Naqvi’s comments around a long-term solution, and a desire not to change captains after one bad series, are likely to rankle Afridi, given he stands in danger of exactly that happening to him. Part of the appeal of appointing Afridi, still 23, as captain was he could learn on the job and continue in the role for an extended period of time. Should he be replaced after an indifferent tour of New Zealand and a poor PSL on the cusp of the T20 World Cup, it is impossible to view it as anything other than a complete loss of faith in his captaincy abilities.

Naqvi also addressed the PCB’s decision to ask Imad Wasim to reverse his international retirement after a successful PSL tournament. After his announcement on Saturday, the allrounder clarified to ESPNcricinfo the decision only applied until the end of the T20 World Cup, and that he did not expect to sign a central contract.

“At this point, our requirement is the World Cup,” Naqvi said. “Everyone felt the team needed to be strong at this stage. We had a straight talk with Imad, and a one-point agenda – come back and play for Pakistan.”

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