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January 15, 2010

Australia 2009-10

A captaincy to forget

Kamran Abbasi

Mohammad Yousuf's tactics have provoked disgust © Getty Images

With the entire world against it, the Pakistan cricket team has conspired to ensure that its deepest wounds are self-inflicted. We've seen some of the worst fielding from an international cricket team, something nobody can do anything about apparently. And now, just when we thought we'd got away with it, farcical run-outs have returned to remind everybody that Pakistan cricketers are only ever one step away from schoolboy errors.

It's been a dismal effort in Hobart, and nothing has been more dismal than the captaincy of Mohammad Yousuf. One of the great fascinations of cricket is the importance of leadership and how different styles of leadership can dramatically influence performance and results. We can't, however, expect every captain to have the psychological skills of Mike Brearley, the guts of Steve Waugh, or the warrior ways of Imran Khan. But we can expect competence, especially from somebody who has been an international cricketer for over a decade.

Yousuf's plea that ex-captains should stop criticising him and offer guidance is simply pathetic. You should never stop learning but if you're struggling with the ABCs and times-tables of cricket captaincy at the age of 35, you might as well give up. Yousuf's defensive approach has cost Pakistan in each Test match in Australia. Release the pressure from Test batsmen and they will plunder you. Ricky Ponting must be laughing his pants off. Yousuf has played his batsmen into glorious form.

At key moments in Hobart, Yousuf has decided to set a field for the scoreboard rather than the match situation. Captains must be able to read the ebb and flow of a match, and seize the initiative. Yousuf reacts to some inner instinct that isn't the instinct of a match-winning cricket captain. Today we endured a first session of Mohammad Aamer bowling round the wicket, wide of off stump with one slip. Pakistan had the new ball and needed wickets.

The message was simple: our bowlers aren't good enough to get you out, please get yourselves out. It's a message that has been a recurring theme of Yousuf's captaincy. The message couldn't be further from the truth. Yousuf is blessed with an outstanding pace attack at his command. Unfortunately, Pakistan's tactics have rendered the attack impotent at times.

It isn't just ex-Pakistani captains who are maddened by Yousuf's captaincy. Some of the greatest Australian minds, Richie Benaud, Mark Taylor, and Shane Warne, have been exasperated by Pakistan's tactics. They want Australia to succeed but they want to see a contest. They are excited by Pakistan's bowlers, described as the best seam attack to visit Australian shores for many years, but have witnessed natural resources squandered by Yousuf's gutless instincts.

Danish Kaneria has suffered too. He hasn't helped himself in Hobart but how does a legspinner exert any pressure in a Test match when he is bowling to a limited-overs field? Richie Benaud described the field set for Kaneria as possibly the worst he has ever seen for a Test legspinner.

Yousuf's captaincy and Pakistan's tactics have become an embarrassment. It's rather tragic that such a glorious batsman has been exposed so quickly as a leader. Yousuf might be a reluctant captain of sorts but he has coveted the job. The PCB in the days of Rameez Raja did not consider he had the qualities for leadership. Bob Woolmer had Younis Khan as his preferred captain, above Inzamam-ul Haq and Yousuf. Judgments that I would trust, judgments that have been vindicated.

Selection of the captain is the most important decision and the PCB has horribly mismanaged this situation. Instead of backing Younis Khan, the PCB bowed to player power and aided the marginalisation of Pakistan's most likely captain. Now Younis says he would not consider the role. Yousuf has been blessed by failure and awarded the one-day captaincy as well, which is a nonsensical decision. Shahid Afridi should be given an opportunity as one-day captain, with a view to taking over the Test captaincy unless Younis can be persuaded otherwise.

Pakistan are short of options because of chronic poor planning, but they need to make the best of the options available - and they need to act fast. Pakistan supporters never expected miracles from their team but they expected to see an approach worthy of support. Attack, spirit, battle. But the current approach has gone beyond ridicule and is provoking outright disgust.

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Posted by AJ on (January 28, 2010, 9:56 GMT)

I would say that we need to lay out all our options on the table and think rationally.Yes, 'Rational' is the word. A captain has an extremely critical role in cricket, therefore, foresight, strategic decision making, aggression, team building, to name a few must be the core competencies of a captain. PCB needs to realize that seniority or performance with the bat or ball is simply no criteria for selecting a captain. They need to look carefully into the profile of all the ODI players and decide which of them has most of the qualities that a captain "must have". I agree that a captain should be able to lead from the front, but leading from the front does not mean he averages 40+ with the bat or takes 2+ wickets per game on average. He should be a genuine leader, someone who can take winning decisions based on the ground realities and must be able to prove his leadership skills. I again repeat that scoring runs of getting wickets is not a criteria to pick a captain. More later...

Posted by Gulbarg on (January 18, 2010, 11:33 GMT)

Mr. Abbasi seems to have decided to criticise Yousuf in every article he publishes and promote Afridi and Younis as choices for Pakistani Captain...Pls understand Pakistani Fielding and Batting is the worse than Bangladesh Cricket team at present when it comes to test matches..Pakistani team has only one good batsman and that is Yousuf..Umer has a long way to go and there is no reason to make him a hero just at this stage of his career..He has not even played 20 Test Matches and media has made him superstar..Not done !! Also Pakistani bowling has been no great except in first inings at Sydney...Balance occasions Australia score more than 400 runs or got out by scoring at a faster rate...yes in bowling department they have a potential however lot to be learned...Also please stop comparing W.Akram with Amer...not justified..let him first take some wickets and win some matches for pakistan then only it will be justified...also high time to kick out some players for ever.....

Posted by sameer on (January 18, 2010, 11:33 GMT)

Abdul Razzaq should be captain and saeed ajmal should be the vice captain of the team..!gues these are the only players whom having nothing to do with player politics!i am sure thy wil perform beter thn present one...though there English is not as gud as otherz but i gues it has nothing to do with the game..!! if u need better result kick Malik,Misbah,Kamran and Umar(if he thinks he loves his brother more than his country)

Posted by Gulab on (January 18, 2010, 7:26 GMT)

I do not agree with you. I feel that if your players perform then the rule of captaincy is not important. I do not think Dhoni has some role in captaincy but his players perform so they win. Same is true for Sangakara and Vetori and even Smith. One of our problem is solved WE HAVE FOUND A YOUNG BATSMAN FOR NO:3 which is BABAR AZAM playing in U19. He is good batsman and alrounder. Please PCB bring him as soon as possible to solve no. 3 problem. Nice batsman and alrounder aha. Thanks

Posted by ARSHAD HUSSAIN -BRISBANE on (January 18, 2010, 5:40 GMT)

Even before he was picked to captain pakistan,I have been saying to my friends,M Yusuf has been playing for his place in the side rather than the best interest of the team,some of his shot selections in Sri Lanka and NewZealand speak for themselves.He has a negative mind set I think he is one of those captains who play for a draw ,if win comes there way it is a bonus.I also have my reservations about the use of his strike bowlers ,he has not rotated them properly rather provided a monotonous attack for the australian to get settled and dominate. The PCB has to be blamed for sheltering the rebels rather than providing support for their captain it is a great lesson they have given to our emerging cricketers if you do not have things going your way please protest,use a threatening attitude and we will change that captain for you-well done PCB. M YUSUF did not show leadership qualities ,took responsibility and was gutless in the field. CRICKET IS FOR BRAVE CAPTAINS NOT FOR FAINT HEARTS

Posted by SHAHID on (January 18, 2010, 5:29 GMT)

KAMRAN it's just a part of the problem, there is much much more to it.

24 catches and 3 stump chances wasted standard of ground fielding over all selection Intekhab's role and his words the grouping The CAPTAIN the way players were sent and withdrwn Younis not sent when asked for Misbah sent when asked for the wise worlds of captain, coach and players

IT WAS A TOTAL JOKE, and these things had to come when you are touring the high profile country. A TEAM WITH NEARLY ALL PLAYERS (EXEPT Aamer and Umar) WITH A DECADES EXPERIENCE ARE CALLED VERY YOUNG TEAM WHO NEEDS TIME by both yousef and inti. lol They cant play they cant speak wise

Posted by Aqil Siddiqi on (January 18, 2010, 1:50 GMT)

There are few other things to observe, that Australia bowling is not formidable, os once used to be. They are good, but no where as fearsome as they were in days of Mcgrath and Warne. And when, new kids like Umar Akmal, Khuram Manzoor, and even our bowlers can play them with ease, then why in the world our top batsmen, can not stay on the pitch for very long. If MoYo feels, that his batting has gone down the toilet, because of captaincy pressure, why he is still clinging on as a captain. Is he like many others before him' looking for power, because he can certainly bat, and we all know that. We just have to accept the fact, that after this lot of test players in Pakistan, it will be a very very long time, we will see some decent test players (If we are lucky). From the beginning of this test series between us against Australia, I didn't give any chance to Pakistan to even a draw,let alone win a test over there. But,I also knew,we would give them a much harder time, but......

Posted by emad on (January 17, 2010, 18:20 GMT)

Mohammad Aamer as Captain, and Umar Akmal as Vice-Captain!

Posted by muzz on (January 17, 2010, 17:14 GMT)

I cannot not believe how much excuses and dreams this coach and management have in their bags - get out/retire or have some decency to shut your mouth.

Posted by Steve Waugh on (January 17, 2010, 16:05 GMT)

I remembered Pak A visit to Australia where I see one most intelligent Captain of Asian sides. Captain who impress with his leader qualities & best batting innings like One Triple century, One Century & fifties with 84 Avg. But I don't know how Pakistan lose youngman with their board's dirty politics. I'm talking about HASSAN RAZA who gave Pakistan One World Cup & number of other big tournaments. PCB give's him one or two chances but a man after 5 years return must need a complete Series. It's not fair if you take him back after Years to face bowling attack like Mc.Grath,Lee & Warne, or Flintoff & Anderson. Player's like Nazir,Razaq,Asif,Misbah,Akmal & Gul all played under HASSAN RAZA's captaincy. Right now Pakistan needs to declare Afridi as ODI's & T20 captain. And Shoaib Malik as Test Captain. And to get rid off from selfish players like Farhat,Butt,Misbah,Yousuf,Younis,Gul,Sami etc. & to give chance young blook like Amir & U.Akmal.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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