LAHORE. − Shan Masood’s appointment as the new Pakistan Test captain ended weeks of commotion.
It was certainly not how a player wants to be handed the reins: the build-up laced with drama that only the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is capable of scripting.
It all began with a press release that threw incumbent captain Babar Azam and Inzamam-ul-Haq, the then chief selector, under the bus after a historic World Cup defeat by Afghanistan in Chennai.
Then came 15 November − the day the PCB put out three press releases in less than an hour to announce Azam had stepped down voluntarily, Shan Masood and Shaheen Afridi were the new Test and T20 captains, and Mohammad Hafeez had replaced Mickey Arthur as team director.
Throughout that period there were recriminations for other PCB officials too, following Pakistan’s poor showing at the World Cup in India.
A three-Test tour of Australia is next for Pakistan, and all with a new leader.
Masood is widely regarded as one of the most astute cricketers in the current Pakistan set-up.
His fitness levels and work ethic are exemplary, and he is considered one of the nicest people to be around.
However, despite making his Test debut a little over a decade ago, Masood has struggled to become a permanent fixture in the Test side − only doing so last winter in the series against England.
His 30 Tests to date have seen him accumulate 1,597 runs at a meagre average of 28.51.
Those numbers do not make for an impressive reading in a country where the captain remains under intense scrutiny for his own returns rather than the team results.
Babar, despite not being known as an astute captain, was handed the reins of Pakistan’s limited-overs sides in 2019 and then the Test side in 2020 based on his prolific batting.
There was also hope that the investment in the young cricketer, as Babar was in mid-20s, would pay off and Pakistan would finally have a long-term captain.
Now, three years on, Pakistan have a captain who is almost a decade older than his predecessor at the time of his appointment.
Such was the swift promotion, Masood has been elevated to Band B in the PCB’s central contract list, having previously been in the bottom bracket (Band D).
He, however, comes to the job with noteworthy experience. Masood has captained in 33 first-class matches and won 17 of them. Only five of the remaining 16 have resulted in defeats.
“I believe there are two roles for a captain,” says Mickey Arthur, who as head of cricket at Derbyshire signed Masood last summer.
“One is making the decisions on the field and the other is off the field, which includes giving total clarity to the players − in terms of the roles, what you want, and working hand in hand with the coach to make sure the environment is structured.
“I really think Masood is capable of leading Pakistan’s Test side. He understands cricket and he will be a very, very good tactician.” − BBC Sport.