Politics April 9, 2007

Coach and captain: ten matters of choice

The Pakistan Cricket Board is close to announcing a new coach and captain

The Pakistan Cricket Board is close to announcing a new coach and captain. At this crucial juncture in the dumbfounding story of Pakistan cricket, here are some issues for the erudite souls on the ad-hoc committee to consider (I bring you this topic after some pestering by Mr Javed A Khan, Montreal):

1 Choose a captain on merit not hierarchy, for positive reasons not negative. When Inzamam was made captain, I asked Ramiz Raja, then CEO of the PCB, why? He replied, with a shrug of his shoulders, that Inzamam was most senior and there was nobody else. Let's not make that mistake again (in other words don't appoint Mohammad Yousuf by default).

2 Choose a captain with energy, attitude, and ideas. Pakistan cricket made something of itself in the 1980s and 1990s because it adopted a positive mindset. Let's have no more lazy preparations, fearfulness, and cerebral vacancy.

3 Choose a captain who is capable of balancing his religious beliefs and his cricketing responsibilities. While Pakistan's players have every right to be as religious as they wish, they must know that their job is to win cricket matches. Nobody should be ostracised or made uncomfortable for not being as pious as the most pious member of the team. Religion, for cricketers, should be a private matter not a badge of honour.

4 Choose a coach who is dynamic and will complement the captain. The main problem identified by Bob Woolmer was the inability of Pakistan's players to learn. My view is that this has everything to do with the educational level of modern Pakistani cricketers. They don't need to be university graduates, of course, but a certain level of education would better equip them to learn in all areas of life. Bob's style was a gentle word here and a friendly nudge there but both the young undercooked and the old overcooked stars probably require some more direct advice.

5 Choose a coach who played no longer ago than in the last decade. Let's prefer new thinking over old.

6 Choose a coach and captain who are both untainted by the match-fixing controversy. Inzamam and Mushtaq Ahmed were both criticised by Judge Qayyum. Inzamam's statement that he was unaware of Qayyum's recommendations about Mushtaq is either a grand deception or jaw-dropping negligence. Let's make integrity an important criterion for selection of the captain and coach.

7 Choose long-term success over short-term gains. The pressure to succeed is huge but after such a dismal failure expectations will be low. Now is the time to patiently build a team to win the next World Cup and not get in a sweat of desperation about winning the next tournament in Malaysia.

8 Choose wisely 1: Although candidates are few in both areas, the potential to get it wrong is huge. The obvious choice for captain is Younis Khan but his first outing has made most people rather nervous that he might have flattered to deceive and doesn't quite have the good sense that a captain requires. His reported reluctance to take on the job doesn't bode well. A true leader would seize the captaincy and vow to pull everybody in line. Alternatively, Mohammad Yousuf is the wrong personality to lead, which only leaves Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi as contenders. Malik's time will come but Afridi would be an intriguing gamble.

9 Choose wisely 2: The list of genuine contenders for the coaching slot is even more limited. Imran Khan has promoted Aaqib Javed, whose record with the U19s is impressive. Intikhab Alam, the coach in Imran's era, has been tipped for the job but is surely out of his time? Mudassar Nazar has been mentioned in dispatches but his last stint was a flop. You can bet that Javed Miandad, another former coach, will be fancying a return. Assuming only Pakistanis will be interested after Bob Woolmer's death, two others worth considering are Rashid Latif and Abdul Qadir, who both run cricket academies. This is a tough one. How do you follow Bob? Indeed what's the rush? Aaqib looks to be favourite and might be worth a punt with batting and fielding coaches in support.

10 Choose in haste, repent at leisure. As I said, what's the rush? Pakistan's schedule is barren for the next few months, some nonsense called a Performance Evaluation Committee has already been created in haste and is conducting a haphazard mock-trial, and the shock of defeat and death is raw in the minds of players, management, and administrators. It would be best for the new appointments to be made in consultation with the new national selectors, since the current lot have tendered their resignations. But that degree of co-ordination would be asking too much.

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