Afridi's removal: Bad, bad decision!

Why would you want to demote a captain who led you to the semi-finals in the World Twenty20 and the ODI World Cup?

ali.syed May 21, 2011
You have a problem with your car? Don’t try to fix it, buy a new one.

If you think about it, this is exactly how Ejaz Butt goes about changing the Pakistan cricket team’s captains. For me, this is just another failure on Butt’s part. Sure, Pakistan won the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup, made it to the semi-finals in the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy, played well in the 2010 Twenty20 World Cup, and exceeded our expectations in the 2011 ICC World Cup – was all of this Butt’s success or a reflection of the talent in Pakistan?

Just imagine the brilliant results that can be achieved if our talented cricket team were to be backed by capable management.

Butt has not given any explanations for the move as yet, but the widely held belief is that Shahid Afridi was sacked as captain because of his differences with coach Waqar Younis.

The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) role here should really have been to define each individual’s domain.

Was Afridi justified in asking for a final say in the playing eleven?

Yes, because he was the one who had to lead the team in the field. He was the one who had to take all the decisions on the ground. If a certain player did not fit well in his plans, he should have been given the power to make that player sit out.

Detractors will be quick to mention that Afridi is no Imran Khan. Agreed. But did we not allow the same freedom to Inzamamul Haq? We gave him the power to pick his squad.

Here, you have a captain who just wants his say in the final eleven, not the whole squad, and you axe him.  And come to think of it. What if Misbahul Haq wants to play a certain player instead of someone who has Younis’s backing? Gear up Muhammad Hafeez and Umar Gul, your chances of captaining Pakistan just experienced exponential growth. In conclusion, Butt’s decision does not solve the problem.

The famous Pietersen-Moores episode has been brought up in equation with this incident. The difference is that Kevin Pietersen had openly talked to his employers, the English Cricket Board (ECB), to find a replacement for Peter Moores. He did not want to work with him. Did Afridi do the same? No. He just reiterated the importance of every individual playing his role.

My problem with handing over the captaincy to Misbah is simple: he is too old.

How long will he be able to carry on? Do we have a replacement ready? The answers to these questions are unclear. It really is another chapter in Pakistan cricket’s much publicised story of unpredictability, for only in Pakistan cricket can you make such comebacks. From being rejected as ODI material just over seven months ago, to becoming the captain of the side, it sure speaks volumes about our consistency.

But who am I kidding?

Why would you want a captain who has led you to 18 wins in 34 matches (all played away from home)?

Why would you want a captain who was the joint-highest wicket taker at the recently concluded World Cup?

Why would you want a captain who has, against all odds, managed to keep this team united under massive pressure?

Why would you want a captain who led you to the semi-finals in the World Twenty20 and the ODI World Cup?

You would definitely not want him to stay as captain. Instead, you would choose a 37-year-old. I have nothing against Misbah, but he should not be captaining the Pakistani side on the tour to Ireland.  For a man who led his squad to a fairy-tale run at the World Cup and brought together the whole of Pakistan, a job many of our celebrated leaders outside the world of cricket have failed to do, Afridi deserves more respect.

We had Imran. We had Miandad. We had Wasim. But, if ever, there was to be a true reflection of Pakistan's cricketing culture, a strange relationship between excitement, talent and a high degree of unpredictability, Afridi is the man.

Thank him for giving us positive headlines. Thank him for that special something that he manages to pull off in the field almost always.

Thank him for the celebration style that is almost iconic in nature for fans all over the world.

There are not many things I am sure about, but I can bet most Pakistani cricket fans will again go to bed praying for Butt’s ouster as chairman of PCB.