LAHORE - Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Tuesday announced Sarfraz Ahmed as new national T20 team captain in place of Shahid Afridi who stepped down following the team’s early exit from the World Twenty20.

PCB chairman Shaharyar M Khan, in a statement, described Sarfraz as a ‘natural choice’ for the position. "I spoke to Sarfraz this morning and conveyed to him that he was our natural choice for this position. His appointment is open-ended. I wish him good luck in his new role," the PCB chief was quoted as saying.

The newly-appointed T20 captain said he was optimistic about taking on the challenge of leading the Pakistan side. “It is an honour for me to lead Pakistan. Captaincy is a tough task as the whole nation pins their hopes on you,” said Sarfraz and added: “I am determined to do my best to justify my position captain. I didn't make any future plan, but I will sit down with the PCB and will talk about it in due course.”

Sarfraz, a right-handed wicketkeeper-batsman who has played 21 T20 internationals and the same number of Test matches, as well as 58 one-day internationals, said he would invoke the team's fighting spirit. "We will play good cricket. I will try to understand what players demand of me and to make sure that they do the same,” he added.

He further said: "The best thing about me, I believe, is my ability to contribution for the team. I always try to play my role whatever it is - batting or wicketkeeping - regardless of the situation or the number I bat on. The more important thing about me is that I remain in my limit and don't talk much. It's my cricket that speaks, and this is what a captain should be doing - lead form the front."

Praising the outgoing captain Afridi, subject of some of the most scathing criticism in the wake of the team's performance in India, the newly-appointed T20 skipper said: "I haven't seen a megastar like Afridi in my cricketing career. He has served Pakistan cricket for 20 years."

The position of Pakistan's T20I captain had been a subject of much speculation in recent days, as Afridi was heavily criticised as a leader following the team's poor performances in both the Asia Cup and the World T20 - Pakistan won just three matches out of eight across the two tournaments.

In a scathing report after the World T20 debacle, Waqar Younis, Pakistan's now former coach, had lambasted Afridi's style of leadership, writing that "Afridi was not performing with the bat, ball or as a captain but I was not listened to," and that the allrounder "didn't attend few meetings, practice - and this is not how a captain leads from the front."

Soon after Waqar's report, Pakistan's team manager Intikhab Alam branded Afridi as an "absolutely clueless" captain in a five-page report that was hugely critical of Afridi's on-field tactics and off-field leadership. Intikhab also termed the use of Sarfraz in the batting order by Afridi in the World T20 as a "critical waste of talent and form".

Intikhab referenced various statistics, including that of all the deliveries that Pakistan faced at the World T20, Sarfraz only played 17 of them despite having made scores of 41, 25, 58 and 38 in his four T20I innings leading into the tournament.

Sarfraz's T20I captaincy debut, though, will have to wait till September 7, when Pakistan play England at Old Trafford for a one-off match. The team's next home series is against West Indies in the UAE, where at least two T20Is are likely to be played.