World Cup 2007 March 12, 2007

Leadership: road to nowhere?

Inzamam needs to captain for his life from the first ball of the match to the last, not in flashes of desperation

When Inzamam-ul-Haq led out Pakistan in yesterday's opening ceremony he took me by surprise, smiling and waving enthusiastically at the crowd. Inzamam's mood is a vital influence on his team. When it is dark and brooding it can crush the enthusiasm of his charges. Only today, Imran Khan has accused Inzamam of leading from the rear.

Inzamam has a low-key style of leadership, undemonstrative to the point of invisibility. When the game is going Pakistan's way this doesn't matter too much, indeed a captain's real skill is revealed in adversity. Unfortunately, Inzamam too often tends to let the game drift when he should be trying to seize the initiative. Now, nobody wants Inzamam to become the team cheerleader - he's got Younis Khan for that - but he must stamp his desire and will on proceedings. If the captain is lethargic in his approach so will the rest of his team.

Inzamam, of course, is capable of passion and visible engagement but those responses too often arise in extremis. In one-day cricket there isn't much opportunity to pull your team back from the brink. Inzamam needs to captain for his life from the first ball of the match to the last, not in flashes of desperation.

He must also seek advice from his senior players and his coach. Leadership may be lonely but any leader is only as good as the people in his team. There is nothing to be gained from internalising the team's burden and responding in splendid isolation. The best captains are those who are willing to listen to trusted lieutenants and then make a decision that is in their opinion best for the team. Imran Khan may have made a name for himself for leading from the front but he constantly had Javed Miandad in his ear. Ricky Ponting is only half the captain he can be when he doesn't have Shane Warne's wisdom to fall back on.

Who will be Inzamam's wise lieutentant? Younis Khan is a great enthusiast. Mohammad Yousuf is reserved but thoughtful. Shahid Afridi is fire and brimstone. Shoaib Malik is a wise head on slender shoulders. None of them is a Javed or a Warne but in combination these senior players must support their captain and their captain must listen.

This mission is not Inzamam's alone. If it becomes that it will become a road to nowhere. This is a mission that must be owned by all of Pakistan's players and coaching staff. But in sport the only kind of leadership that works is leadership from the front, that unites players behind a clear vision. Inzamam is a great leader and a great thinker when he is at the crease. He has to quickly become a good enough leader the rest of the time as well.

If the warm up matches have proved anything it is that this is an open tournament and despite their crazy preparation Pakistan have a genuine chance of victory. Inzamam has done much to unite these players with his silent authority. But he must now shed any fear of failure, get his head in the game, and lead like a champion. Win or lose, nobody will criticise him for that.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2012, 18:17 GMT

    I'm impreessd by your writing. Are you a professional or just very knowledgeable?

  • fanedlive on March 17, 2007, 9:06 GMT

    Inzi .. a question mark? a full stop. an exclamation mark! or a smile :)

    I just saw yesterday match between England and Newzeland. Vaugh captaincey was excellent. He tried everything to break-up the partnership but his bowlers were unable to get a wicket for his captain. To whom you are going to blame? Captain? or Team?

    I think winning a match is a team effort but I also don't say that you can make anybody captain. Captain is important as well and if you look at the current Pakistani team then I think Inzi is a best option. I will not recommend Younis because in my point of view any immature decision can cast you match as well.

    I think Inzi just follow the game plan and move on accordingly. He is not like imran who is on the field with his own game plan. Team has to perform well, players have to contribute and rise above. If Inzi can do well with the bat then that will be great as he used to be match winner!

    but .. one problem .. there is always a hope ..

  • fanedlive on March 17, 2007, 4:33 GMT

    i think ur rite i agree wid everyy wordd

  • fanedlive on March 17, 2007, 0:03 GMT

    Dear kamran Abbasi Please forward/Send this email to Inzmam &Bob&Naseem if you have contact with them. I suggest pakisatn team has Calibre of winning/or at leat competing in this world cup only of Team Management really want to do that.Few players of pakistan have great great potential&moreover Inzmam him self but they have to put themselves into test .I dont know why INZMAM is afraid of testing himself .In first match he had the chance to prove it but he after winning the toss he gave batting to WEST INDES.What was this extremely foolish descion ?.Even W.I did not do well but it discloses to them that Inzmam is afraid &taht was the advantage to them.Other thing if Afridi comes back ,he should open .They should play aggressive &bold cricket not like cowards&rotten cricket.

  • fanedlive on March 16, 2007, 23:23 GMT

    i must say Kamran u really know hwo to criticise dude! but u really think its worth or our team needs appreciatian and support?all we can do is hope and pra tht PAKISTAN qualifies through super 8 then super 4 then then last finals v/s India!!!! wohooo

  • fanedlive on March 16, 2007, 12:49 GMT

    The issue of captaincy is vital, Imran is right when he says Inzamam should lead from the front which means at times of crisis he must move up the batting order to stabilise the negativity that sets in. Why Pakistan management have not solved the huge problem of finding two quality opening batsman is beyond me, this has been evident for a long time. The current crop's inability to set a firm foundation to allow the middle order to play their natural game has been a major factor why this team will continue to struggle. The fielding is autrious, probably the worst fielding side in the tournament and yet nothing has been done to sort out this major issue. Ireland and Zimbabwe will run Pakistan very close judging what we have seen so far.

  • fanedlive on March 16, 2007, 11:29 GMT

    This guy is the only Pakistani writer i enjoy reading. lol Keep it up.

  • fanedlive on March 13, 2007, 23:34 GMT

    In their opening loss to WI Pakistan once again proved what a group of under achievers they really are. Inzi also once again proved to be a thoughtless captain. Why did he not play Azhar Mahmood on a pitch that looked very green in place of Kaneria? And why did he play Sami in the warm matches only to replace him Rana in this one? I thought Sami was impressive in the match against SA. That just shows that Pakistan really doesn't have a strategy, they would rather just wing it. And why did they not choose Salman Butt for WC, the only genuine opener Pakistan has produced since Saeed Anwar? Are we that desperate that one good innings from Nazir will guarantee him a permanent place as an opener? They had this match in their control, even after letting WI score 58 runs in the last 5 overs and even after losing 3 quick wickets, only if they had played like a team who has confidence in their abilities and who refuse to lose. A team like Australia or SA, who never give in no matter what the circumstances. And that attitude my friends comes directly from an insightful leader who believes in his troops and provides them with that confidence.

    I believe that Pakistan can still go pretty far in this tournament, but they will have to devise a clever plan for each match, play to their strengths and opposition's weaknesses, and go into each match with a mentality that no one can beat them.

  • fanedlive on March 13, 2007, 22:18 GMT

    Yep agreed with your points Kamran, sadly as has been said, it's all obvious as it has been for ages and old hat by now. Mullah Inzi is one of the world's best batsman, and maybe a good father figure to his players, but tactically on the field, and in the media, he's a very poor captain, nobody can factually dispute that. But you can't blame him, he's doing the best he can and being given a role he doesn't have the skills to perform well. It reflects more badly on the crap job of the PCB of developing leaders, and the lack of laternative options within the team, than Inzi himself.

  • fanedlive on March 13, 2007, 7:49 GMT

    Behind the huge mass of Inzi is class. Inzi is a legend, as big as Lara or Tendulkar. Let us hope for a class act!

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