When will our captains understand?
It is common knowledge that Pakistan cricket and controversy go hand in hand, and it seems that the former cannot survive for long without the latter rearing its head.
The last few years, under the rule of the much maligned Ejaz Butt, have been no different, be it the descent of Younis Khan from captaincy, the Muhammad Yousuf captaincy and non-selection saga, the unfortunate Butt, Asif and Amir incident or the regular sacking/resignations of coaches and chief selectors - the people involved at the highest echelons, and the fans too, have perhaps resigned to the fact that it is optimistic to the point of being utterly foolish to expect things to be normal around Pakistan cricket.
However, at least up to the point of Pakistan’s heartbreaking exit at the hands of India in the semi-final, it seemed as if the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had indeed found a way to keep things moving in a positive direction - with the introduction of Misbah as the Test captain and Shahid Afridi as the two limited overs formats’ captain. The coaching team, consisting of young and intelligent people who understand the game, in the form of Waqar Younis, Aqib Javed and Ijaz Ahmed also seemed to be doing the trick, coupled with our eternal good luck charm Intikhab Alam as manager.
Even after the World Cup, the team played well in West Indies, however lacklustre the series may be made out to be, and everybody was happy, barring the obvious exceptions in Sarfraz Nawaz and Abdul Qadir, who are insatiable perfectionists. Then, came the news that there was something brewing between Afridi and Waqar Younis.
It was recently reported that Afridi was unhappy because of the amount of say Younis was being given in team selection, and this was confirmed when Afridi said something to the effect that everyone should work in their own domain and not interfere with others’ work. While this might seem just another routine episode in the love-hate mutual relationship that Pakistani captains and coaches generally have, for me it underlines a dangerous inherent problem associated with Pakistani captains in particular - bloated egos.
True, we all believe Afridi has transformed the team with his passion, but the fact that he is not one of the greatest readers of the game, cannot be ignored. He needs to understand that the coaches and management staff are there to help him in his job rather than take away his authority, and if his view that the coach should not be involved in the process of team selection is to be accepted, then goodness only knows what coaches are going to do, because certainly team formation and planning is the most important task a modern-day cricket coach has.
There are also reports that the PCB is going to drop Afridi for the upcoming series against Ireland and Zimbawe, which is very sad to say the least. What the PCB needs to do, is to sit the two of them down and clearly define what their respective roles entail so that conflicts like these do not hamper the growth of the visibly talented young Pakistan team.
Let us hope then that Afridi sees sense and understands that he cannot martial his troops alone, that he can put his ego aside when it comes to the good of the team, and also that the very effective Waqar Younis can deal with this issue with tact and know when to back down if a similar situation arises in the future.
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