Coach sets out to resolve rift in team
Much of the surprise over the appointment of Intikhab Alam as coach of Pakistan has emanated from not knowing precisely what he brings, in this day and age, to the set-up. Yet days ahead of his first assignment, it is becoming clearer what qualities he will bring.
Almost from the day of his appointment as captain last year, Shoaib Malik is said to have shared an uneasy relationship with senior members in the side. Mohammad Yousuf, recently signed up with the Lahore Badshahs of the ICL, was the first - and so far only player - to go public with the dissatisfaction but he isn't the only one.
At a two-day training camp ahead of the ODI series against West Indies, Intikhab acknowledged there may have been unease within the team, but said the issue was not something that cannot be easily resolved through open, honest communication.
Along with the manager Yawar Saeed, Intikhab held a long multi-purpose meeting with the team on Friday: to set out his plans for the side and also allow grievances to come out in the open. It is believed at least two of the more experienced members in the squad took the opportunity to vent some frustration with Malik.
Renowned from his first stint as coach in the early 1990s as a man-manager of some skill, Intikhab downplayed the differences. "I won't hide anything," he said. "Yawar and I gave the boys an opportunity to talk openly and we said if anyone does have any issues to resolve do it here and now. The meeting was held in a good atmosphere and reservations came out in it.
"Maybe it [the reports of unease] is correct. But I spoke to Malik as an elder. I'm sure whatever issues we have are from small misunderstandings. If they are left then they grow but it is nothing major."
Communication, he stressed, would be the key. "I feel a lack of communication often is the biggest problem. There should always be open communication between players and the management. As an elder, it is particularly important for me to do so with the younger guys because at this age, they don't always know about life outside cricket."
Aaqib Javed, his assistant, and often touted as a future national coach, has been actively involved in team trainings, going so far as to have a bowl at the tailenders in nets today at the National Stadium in Karachi. But for now Intikhab is the head honcho and reports of his loose grasp of modern-day coaching methods may be slightly exaggerated.
"I've been looking at and analysing videos of the West Indies team," he said. "They've got a good ODI side and a few new faces. As coach my work is to be fully prepared. I have to do that background work to help the captain to devise strategies for opponents and that can only happen when you have complete knowledge."