That Pakistan lost the first Test against Australia is not in itself cause for embarrassment; it’s the manner in which we lost that should cause us to bow our heads in shame. Pakistan was bundled out by part-time bowlers, gifted runs to tail-enders and lost their captaina, Shahid Afridi one match into his much-touted comeback. In a press conference that lasted longer than both his innings in the match and resembled a stand-up routine, Afridi declared that he wasn’t good enough for Test cricket and would retire after the second Test. Asked when he decided to retire, Afridi replied with a goofy grin, “When I got out.” This statement can stand as an epitaph of the ad-hocism and insouciance that has brought Pakistan cricket to its present sorry state.
While the manner of Afridi’s resignation was disturbing, there is no doubt that he should never have been appointed in the first place. He hadn’t played the longer form of the game for four years and never had the aptitude for Test cricket in the first place. Then, there was the infamous ball-biting episode in Australia where his nonchalant reaction to what was essentially cheating showed that he was as suited to captaincy as he is to grinding out a responsible innings. The sad truth is, though, that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had simply run out of options, having discarded three captains in less than a year. Afridi, as Winston Churchill said about democracy, was the worst option around - except for all those others which had been tried.
In the last few years, Pakistan cricket has had to deal with terrorism, Senate inquiries, the captaincy carousel, spot fixing, life bans, drug abuse and sexually-transmitted diseases. PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt has mishandled each and every one of these issues but in appointing the carefree and obviously uninterested Afridi as captain we should hope that he has made his final blunder. It is time to put him to pasture. As expected, vice-captain Salman Butt has taken over the reigns for the second Test against Australia and the series against England. In the up-is-down world of Pakistani cricket, this may be the first time the PCB has taken an unsurprising decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.
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