Australia 2009-10 January 15, 2010

A captaincy to forget

It's been a dismal effort in Hobart, and nothing has been more dismal than the captaincy of Mohammad Yousuf

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