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Pakistan cricket is on the 'critical' list. Mohammad Yousuf will lead the team in conditions that will severely test his batsmen -- and to many eyes the captain himself is the only credible Test batsman in the squad. Younis Khan's withdrawal has depleted the reserves of proper batsmen by 50%. The fault lies partly with the paucity of cricket that Pakistan have played recently but mainly with the PCB's inability to develop batsmen over the last decade.
Unfortunately, a sequence of Test series in New Zealand, Australia, and England is an inhospitable agenda for players with inexperience or technical frailties. Pakistan have many batsmen in both categories. This situation is a shame for Pakistan's blossoming bowling attack. The gulf between the two major arts of cricket has become wider than at almost any time in Pakistan's history.
A bigger concern, however, remains the leadership. It is hard to see Yousuf possessing the attributes that are required. Already, nervousness about the batting conditions in New Zealand and talk of decision-making by committee are causes for concern. Only strong leadership can pull Pakistan out of this hole. We need Pakistan to grow over the next months and arrive in Australia and then in England ready for battle. Next summer, and what it means for the survival of Pakistan cricket in particular, demands a strong showing.
Which brings us back to the Younis saga. He remains the best man for the job, and it is a bitter disappointment that he has withdrawn from this tour. Younis is disillusioned with the captaincy, his poor form could have been accomodated if his fellows had supported him. This partybazi [groupism], player muscle-flexing is a root of Pakistan's ills.
Worryingly, Ijaz Butt and the PCB failed to stub out the dissent in the team. They failed in their governance role. Once Younis was awarded the captaincy, any player unwilling to play under him should have been dropped however big his ego or reputation. The PCB must accept responsibility for not managing this crisis properly. The whole future of Pakistan cricket is plunged back into jeopardy.
The New Zealand tour may already be a lost cause -- just look at the batsmen in the squad -- but by the time Pakistan arrive in Australia the captaincy issue must be settled. And that means Younis in charge with a team made up of players willing to play under him, at least in Test cricket. At a push, Shahid Afridi could manage both one-day formats. But Test cricket, the blue ribbon event, requires Younis. He should be urged to build for Pakistan's future and given the right backing by his cricket board.
I've never been more worried about Pakistan cricket. This is a make-or-break year and disastrous decisions by the PCB, such as choosing the wrong captain, could destroy any chance of Pakistan's revival as a cricketing force. Pakistan fans will always support their team, whoever leads and whoever plays, but it is the habitual mismanagement that we cannot tolerate.
Mr Butt and his fellow board members must recognise the danger that Pakistan cricket is in and act.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets hereFeeds: Kamran Abbasi
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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi