Champions Trophy September 24, 2009

Afridi's captaincy of luck and judgement

Shahid Afridi has been an eager captain short of opportunities

Shahid Afridi was impressive in his stint as captain © Getty Images
Pakistan escaped their tussle with the West Indies with points on the board and a sense of relief. Had the West Indian captain asked Pakistan to bat first we may have been considering a nightmare scenario and a disastrous captaincy debut for Shahid Afridi. This match was something of a lottery and the team batting second would hold a major advantage.

As it turned out West Indies aptly demonstrated why their cricket requires resuscitation. A weak team requires all the help it can get, and that help ended the moment West Indies won the toss. Pakistan should also pay close attention to the pitiful state of West Indian cricket. A few more wrong calls by cricket adminstators and Pakistan could be hurtling to join Bangladesh, West Indies, and Zimbabwe in the bottom echelon of the international game.

Good fortune apart, Pakistan can take some heart from this encounter. The bowlers were outstanding, bowling with excellent control to extract maximum bounce and movement from an unsusally helpful track. Umar Gul and Mohammad Aamer are becoming formidable, while Rana Naved looks in better shape and form than prior to his ICL flirtation.

But two other performances fascinated me more. First, Shahid Afridi has been an eager captain short of opportunities. A previous outing leading the 'A' team suggested that captaincy was beyond him. Nonetheless, Afridi has focused his energy and his mind to become a responsible cricketer. Individual success, as ever with Afridi, has settled him, and his captaincy was refreshing for his encouragement of his young charges and his aggressive approach as Pakistan sensed a rout. This began as an easy day at the office but Afridi excelled when the going was easy and knuckled down when the tough needed to get going.

It was, however, Umar Akmal who added most to his reputation. A stunning entry on familiar tracks has been seen before. Many Pakistani batsmen have thundered into town only to be shot down by the first serious challenge. Umar came through a tricky situation on an unhelpful track, which is a sign that he may have the right mentality to blossom. Clearly, he has a long way to go but all Pakistan fans will be excited to see how he performs against stronger opposition.

Pakistan are now well placed in the group, one good win away from a semi final. India and Australia are both strong but beatable. Once more, Pakistan's bowling offers hope that the team can be competitive while the batting remains a worry, although Younis Khan will be back to strengthen the top order.

Now for the big one.

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