Afridi or Misbah, Have You Made Your Choice?
The world is just a few days short of having its fodder for the world cup come the 19th of February. Amidst all tour matches and preparations for the upcoming mega event, Pakistan cricket team seems like the odd-one-out sort. Well, certainly with the real buzz around concerning the captaincy issue that seems to be concluding shortly, during/after Pakistan’s tour to New Zealand, the Pakistani board has yet again provided the world, let alone the team, some rough thinking time over who would lead the pack once the world cup commences. It may sound ridiculous but it is true all the same. Apparently, Misbah ul Haq and Shahid Afridi are very strong competitors for the spot but considering the amount of unpredictability and the sort of U-turn policy that the Pakistan Cricket Board can always turn to I feel that it may be worthwhile to keep your fingers crossed and hope that we do not see another twist in the tail with, let us suppose, Sohail Tanvir leading the side. Anyway, with all factors held constant (like you do in your Physics, Chemistry or maybe also in your Economics classes), the debate mainly revolves around two men in green: Misbah ul Haq and Shahid Afridi, and we shall try to settle this once and for all.
It is important to note that Misbah ul Haq has had a dream run on the latest tour of New Zealand, which, at the time of writing this article, goes on, and Misbah’s success story continues while Shahid Afridi continues to enjoy a captain’s triumph. With Pakistan team motoring along nicely towards a series win against New Zealand, the captaincy issue remains the only factor that seems to be requiring a bit of settlement besides a tad bit of fielding and batting issues.
First, Afridi’s desperation to gel the team together sure does seem and sound like an interesting part of his captaincy policies but question is has he really been successful in doing so. Well, you might think so, but let us not forget that there is more than one angle to a picture that one views and it is not necessary that all of them are clearly visible before all. Nobody can rule out the team’s sheer unpredictability, be it onfield or off the field. As far as statistics go, 7 wins and 10 losses in a total of 18 games Afridi’s captaincy does not really depict extra ordinary results as such despite he being engaged in than a decade now. Although not too “incisive” (pun intended) with the ball in his hand, Afridi has picked up his game with the bat averaging nearly 36 since the time he was appointed captain. Trouble is, Afridi’s performance comes in patches; that is, a magnificent knock would be followed with some very understandable and irresponsible innings at times, which would really not pay dividence to his supremacy. Speaking of not paying dividence, Afridi’s off the field activities also raised questions at times, for instance his active participation in speaking in the spot-fixing case was not very much appreciated by a few ex-cricketers and the trio itself, of course. Interestingly, one of the suspended trio, Salman Butt was also vocal about the issue and even went on to discuss the matter with chairman PCB, Ejaz Butt.
“This is more or less the same team that plays in Tests and one-day matches. But when they played recently in the Tests they looked like a different side and when they are playing 50-over cricket it appears as if they don’t know what direction to take,” Salman said. “Misbah is the ideal man to lead Pakistan in the World Cup. He is a born captain and an ideal leader. The best part about him is that he is composed and leads by example.”
Former skipper further added, “I think the present one-day team is stronger than the Test side as there are senior players who have been playing international cricket for last 15 years. “But I think the ODI side is struggling because of poor planning and weak captaincy,” he said. Referring to the defeat in the first One-day International in Wellington, Salman put the blame on poor planning and weak leadership. “If you have a player [Afridi] who is clueless then how can he lead the team,” he questioned.
Many would argue that as Salman himself has been, allegedly, guilty of something rather ridiculous and unsporting, he does not have any say over what goes in the team while he is sitting on the sidelines. Personally, I do not see any point in the opinion Salman holds especially when he says that Afridi is a ‘clueless’ captain.
Moving on, former cricketers favor Misbah as Afridi’s successor or the world cup also. While they might have their reasons to say so, I have mine. Afridi has not been the best when it comes to onfield etiquettes and manners either, be it the ball biting incident or kissing/slapping his fellows (serious reference to Shoaib Malik and Saeed Ajmal). My point is, a captain who more often than not can not resist pressure situations in batting scenarios when his team needs him most and gets out playing totally mind boggling shots and only adopts a warm, bam and thank you ma’am strategy once he comes out to bat to anchor the inning can not expect much in return from his team. When partnerships and high scoring is a captain’s agenda, the same is expected of him; in fact, he is required to lead by example. I am afraid that in Afridi’s case, we have not seen that happen too often. The captain stresses a sore need of partnerships and substantial scores and performances room the batsmen but fails to justify or translate these statements with a personal feat.
Now as far as Misbah is concerned, as a batsman he is often criticized for his slow approach towards scoring his runs, which is reflected in his strike rate for the one-dayers. Misbah’s captaincy on paper so far does not really work in his favor either but considering the sort of blistering form that he has found out of nowhere and a soothing and steady approach towards his bating, he might well be up as the preferred choice in the coming days. More time fittest men in the ranks of the Pakistanis and more importantly, he is one amongst the runs so that really strengthens his case for captaincy for the upcoming mega event. Although this might be a short-term decision, it may allow Afridi to find some consistent batting as well as bowling form while Misbah might take over as the leader of the green shirts. One thing that does need to change is a defensive mindset and surely, needs to rethink his strategy and adopt a more aggressive approach towards things. This reminds me of a joke that I read very recently that said:
“The curious case of Misbah and Afridi”. Or “The mysterious ways of Pakistan cricket”. The only team that can combine, in Sriram’s words, Abdul Razzaq swinging like there is no tomorrow, Shahid Afridi swinging like there is no next moment, Younis Khan who bats in ODIs like he is batting in a Test and vice versa, and Misbah-ul-Haq who is known to bat in all formats like he is batting in a Test.
On a more serious note we must realize that no matter who the captain is, most important thing for any team is to find the right combination and continue their path on winning ways. Pakistani team, without doubt, has shown improvements in their play and now following the announcement of captain, be it Misbah, Afridi or anybody else, the team must continue to support one another and the captain, and continue to perform in their own capacities if this team is to prosper.