A one-man vision won't work
Inzamam sung a famliar song on arrival in South Africa: The past is forgotten we're all for one and one for all. Pakistan churn out this piece of ham-fisted spin-doctoring so often that it has become tedious. For once, it would be nice to know that such statements aren't required. Inzamam, though, has brought this current controversy about the tour selection and his relationship with Shoaib Akhtar upon himself. It's simple enough to conclude that power is back in the hands of Pakistan's captain after Nasim Ashraf's premature attempt to slap him down. The reinstatement of Mushtaq Ahmed is evidence enough. Magic Mushy may well have much to offer Pakistan cricket but I'm not sure what he could have done in the past couple of months to bring about this volte-face.
The lesson that Ashraf has learned is that people care more about cricketers than they do about officials. And secondly, people care more about results than they do about individual cricketers. Pakistan's abysmal failure in the Champions Trophy punctured Ashraf's machismo but the worry is that the pendulum has swung too far back in Inzamam's favour for the good of Pakistan cricket.
Inzamam's hold over the team is a double-edged sword. If he uses his influence in a positive way Pakistan may well be capable of achieving great success this year. However, if his mood crushes the people around him, which it began to do during last summer's tour of England, Pakistan cannot succeed.
Imran Khan once had a similar hold over his team but he was wise enough to know that he had to harness the talents of people that he may not have liked or necessarily agreed with. The outcome was more important than pride--although he had plenty of that too. The test of leadership is whether or not you will include or seek counsel from people you may not choose as your friends but who have something to contribute to the mission. This is a test that Inzamam has not passed, and for the sake of Pakistan cricket he needs to. There is a huge risk in allowing one man to monopolise strategy, particularly when he has able support around him. Indeed, Inzamam is no Imran. He has never struck me as having the clarity of vision or ideas to do it alone.
Inzamam has succeeded in many ways in his career, and he is a contender for the title of Pakistan's greatest ever batsman. He has single-handedly won international matches and almost single-handedly won a World Cup. He has brought great stability to Pakistan cricket under his leadership. But his biggest failing is that he has become over-bearing and fallen too easily into a negative mindset. This is evident in the kinds of pitches that Pakistan have prepared under his leadership, the suggestions to Mohammad Sami to drop his speed, his on-field decisions, and now the selection of the current touring party. Pakistan had no need for so many batsmen, particularly those in the middle order, for this short tour of South Africa. That extra place should have gone to a bowler.
Yet that is Inzamam's way. It is the mindset that I believe inhibits Pakistan cricket. Yes, stability is essential and I have argued for it myself, but leadership is about allowing the talents of your charges to flourish and managing--not excluding--difficult personalities. It is also about seeking wise counsel and including your management team in deciding which is the best way forward. Inzamam, great player that he is, needs to harness the knowledge of his fellows and free the spirit of his players--and he needs to begin now.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here