"There's no doubt that Sarfaraz Ahmed is our captain and he will remain so until any other decision is taken" - Ehsan Mani Getty

The dust regarding the issue of Pakistan's captain for the upcoming World Cup finally settled on Tuesday (February 5) after the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani confirmed Sarfaraz Ahmed as the team's leader. The PCB chairman may however reconsider his decision if there is a 'big disaster' in terms of performances in the run-up to the World Cup, and there will be an 'honest' re-evaluation after the multi-team event.

"There's no doubt that Sarfaraz Ahmed is our captain and he will remain so until any other decision is taken," Mani told reporters in a specially arranged press conference at the PCB headquarters.

"There are unsubstantiated speculations regarding the leadership role after every series in the media. Sarfaraz will captain Pakistan in the Australia series [five ODIs before the World Cup] and in the World Cup. After it, we will sit and re-evaluate the performance. Obviously performances are related to leadership but only a case of big disaster can make us review our support [for Sarfaraz]. I am not saying that we won't be honest with our evaluations."

Last week, a PCB spokesperson had told Cricbuzz that the board had never announced Sarfaraz for a specific tenure. Rather the board's policy was to select captains on series-to-series basis. But, the chairman stressed that the whole board stood behind him.

"I am saying this from my first day that he is Pakistan captain and we are not concerned at all about what is being discussed around. He is captain and will remain captain until next decision is taken. There's no politics involved in this decision. Yes, we carry out a review after every series and it's a normal governing process which I believed should be carried out to analyse the performances.

Questions have been raised about the performances but in a bigger picture results have been good. So, once again I tell you that the entire board is behind Sarfaraz. I spoke to selectors, coaches, director operations and all are supporting him as captain. We are very much hopeful that we will again get on the success in his leadership."

Sarfaraz's leadership role has remained under scrutiny since Mohsin Khan, head of cricket committee, said in October last year that the wicketkeeper-batsman should be relieved of Test captaincy as leading the national side in all three formats was putting extra burden on him. Pakistan's poor run in the Asia Cup followed by a Test series defeat against New Zealand at home - their second in almost a year - added to the calls of his removal. His on-field taunt in the second ODI - deemed to be racial for which he was suspended for four-matches - further aggravated the situation.

There has also been a dip in his batting form. Since taking up the Test captaincy in September 2017, Sarfaraz has scored 24.69 runs per dismissal which is 12 runs below his overall average. His ODI batting average has also fallen by five runs to 27.75. His T20I batting average, however, has remained the same - hovering around 28.

Pakistan have largely enjoyed success under Sarfaraz as they won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 and became the top-ranked side in the shorter-format in January 2018. The team has enjoyed phenomenal success in the T20 format with their win/loss ratio standing at a staggering 7.250. However, it is the team's record in Tests - in which they have lost eight out of 13 matches - that has raised questions on Sarfaraz's ability.

The PCB chairman, however, has backed Sarfaraz throughout his turbulent times because of the impression that he made on him with his on-field demeanor during Pakistan's historic win over India in the final of the U-19 World Cup in 2006. "I first met Sarfaraz 13 years ago during ICC U-19 World Cup in Colombo and his leadership quality [in that tournament] had been great," he said.

"Pakistan believed to have lost that game after scoring 109 against India but the way Sarfaraz led the side and got India out for 71 runs was outstanding. I couldn't forgot that match and even wrote a letter to the then chairman Shahrayar Khan appraising his leadership, and this is still intact. So there is no doubt at all in Sarfaraz's contribution and performances for Pakistan."

At the occasion, Sarfaraz, seated beside the chairman, expressed his gratefulness. "I am very much thankful to the PCB chairman for trusting me. This support was always there and [for] this reassurance I am again thankful. You [referring to the chairman] trusted in my abilities and I will try my level best to justify and whatever good is for Pakistan I will push hard for it.

"It is a big honour for me to lead Pakistan at the World Cup and stand among those who did in past people like Imran Khan, Wasim [Akram], Shahid [Afridi], and Misbah [ul Haq]. So, this is big."

But, will the developments of the past few months have any pressure on him when he steps on the field the next time to lead Pakistan?

"Pressure is always there," said Sarfaraz. "I am the captain from last two years and this [series-to-series evaluation] has been there. Personally, as captain, I have never thought too far about being captain, [and] neither about my career. I always go series-by-series. With the chairman's and board's support my spirits are higher than ever. I now would like to transfer the same spirit in the team for whatever coming up next in Australia series and World Cup."