New age May 20, 2007

Welcome back Team Pakistan

When Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, and Mohammad Asif gathered to discuss how to bowl and set a field to Mahela Jayawardene it struck me that this was a sight Pakistan cricket has been missing

It might be the enthusiasm of youth. It might be a flash in the pan. It might be a false dawn. But when Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, and Mohammad Asif gathered to discuss how to bowl and set a field to Mahela Jayawardene it struck me that this was a sight Pakistan cricket has been missing. The team huddle is all well and good but the team think-tank is a far more valuable concept.

Australia, as usual, are the premier exponents of the think-tank approach. Ricky Ponting has grown into a formidable leader but his lieutenants, Messrs Warne, Gilchrist, and Hussey--or anybody else with a bright idea for that matter--will not hesitate to have a word of wisdom with their captain or the bowler. Gilchrist, for example, will often hatch a plan in the middle of an over. Even if it is a chat about the next episode of Neighbours it puts the batsman on edge.

Under Inzamam-ul Haq the Pakistan think-tank had ebbed away. All thinking resided within his tank-like frame. The huddle, an opportunity to impart instructions and urge common purpose, reigned supreme. But I'm refreshed by the return of the think-tank. It shows that Shoaib Malik is willing to debate and listen. He must have the final say, of course, but no individual has a monopoly on the best ideas.

Winning two matches against a jaded and under-strength Sri Lankan team does not make you the best in the world. It does not mean that every move that Captain Malik made was the correct one. It does not mean that Sergeant-Major Afridi will rescue Pakistan in every match with bat or ball--and today there was genuine pressure from Sri Lanka when Afridi bowled his team back into a dominant position.

Yet there is more to team spirit than the embrace of a huddle. There is a degree of sharing of ideas and strategy, as well as some disagreement, that unites players in their quest. It has to be done in the middle of a match not confined to the middle of the captain's brain.

On these counts, Malik's era has begun optimistically. Welcome back Team Pakistan.

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

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