May 19, 2011

The problem is Butt

He has been in charge for just under three years and Shahid Afridi's axing represents the ninth change in captaincy in his time

In a way this isn't even about Shahid Afridi or Misbah-ul-Haq. Both have their advantages and faults. This writer personally considered Afridi to have done as good a job as was manageable in the circumstances that were thrust upon him.

Few can realistically argue that they weren't surprised by his performances as leader, given how unsuitable a candidate he has looked for most of his career. But over 32 ODIs (two, against West Indies and Australia, came as stand-in) he left a bit of himself on the team: unpredictable, occasionally brilliant, occasionally hopeless; that Pakistan's four ODI series under Afridi all ended in 3-2 scorelines is quite fitting really.

But mostly they were up for a good fight. In particular, Pakistan showed some spine under him against England and South Africa last year, contests in which what was happening around them could easily have blown them away entirely.

On results, he just about wins. Any captain will take more wins than losses, particularly as few of his opponents were genuinely weak. The World Cup run cannot be belittled, and two series wins did come against weaker sides, but they are two more than a few of the last couple of captains managed: Pakistan, remember, hadn't won an ODI series against a full member side since November 2008 until they beat New Zealand earlier this year. So credit is due.

Misbah might be a decent captain. His form since his return to all formats last year has been outstanding, even if it takes in the much-pilloried World Cup semi-final half-century against India. But turning to a man who turns 37 on the day he leads Pakistan against Ireland in the first ODI isn't a long-term solution.

But the problem isn't either of these two. The problem, not for the first or last time in the tenure of Ijaz Butt, lies with the board, with Butt himself. So far nobody has said why Afridi has been removed, and they might not say anything anytime soon; the board does, after all, retain the right to change captains per assignment.

Only two things could have led to this, however. One is Afridi's keenness in airing private matters publicly, which is admittedly an uneasy trait to possess as Pakistan captain. The other is the differences he has with coach Waqar Younis, differences that have grown considerably over the last few months. Both are issues that can be resolved without sacking someone, a suggestion so obvious that it feels foolish to write it out.

If he does speak out regularly - and it is a breach of the code of conduct - can he not be disciplined in another way? And, given what Pakistani captains of pretty recent vintage have gotten up to, is it that grave an offence? Perhaps Afridi's general disciplinary record went against him: the ball-biting last year, or his abrupt relinquishing of the Test captaincy. In that case, they should have axed him then, when it might have made sense, not now, when it makes less.

The chairman has been quiet for a few months and it has been bliss. Now he has stirred again, underlining once again as if it was needed, that he might struggle to run a chalkboard, let alone a cricket board

If there were problems with Waqar, could not the two of them - with PCB officials involved - have had a pow-wow to sort matters out? Intikhab Alam, the team manager, tried to bring the two together during the ODI series in the Caribbean, but the matter is delicate enough to be handled away from an ongoing series.

Maybe - a radical suggestion this - the board could have sat down and worked out a better, more streamlined selection policy, over which the pair have fallen out. The parameters are not defined very well, but mostly selection in Pakistan is not so different from that in other countries. The selection committee picks a squad, with inputs from coach and captain. The on-tour management, which includes coach and captain, picks the XI. If, as happens often, a Test squad is announced after the ODI leg of the series, then the on-tour management inevitably wants input in that. The final say, in all matters, is with the chairman, for some reason.

As Pakistan's experiments with democracy amply demonstrate, there are probably too many different people involved for this to work smoothly: five in the selection committee, three or more on tour (if the advice of senior players is taken). In any case, the problems that regularly arise in selection matters here likely do elsewhere; the point is you don't solve them simply by sacking people, unless all other options have been exhausted.

Butt has been in charge for just under three years and this now represents the ninth change in captaincy in his time, in Tests and ODIs. Nine: it takes some countries decades to go through that kind of change. Add to it three coaches and five selection chiefs. Does it need to be written out what kind of effect this instability has on the performances of a team? How do you build anything if the materials keep changing? And can we expect Afridi, whether he says it publicly or not, as a key member of the ODI side still, to take this without any issues?

Long ago the number of changes began to say nothing of the men who came and went and everything of the man who made the changes: that is, he is clueless. How much longer before he decides to kick out Misbah? Or Mohsin Khan? Or Waqar Younis?

The chairman had been quiet for a few months and it had been bliss. Now he has stirred again, underlining once again as if it was needed, that he might struggle to run a chalkboard, let alone a cricket board.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 22, 2011, 2:16 GMT

    Agreed 1000% please give Butttt a rest and get rid of him for the sake of Pakistan cricket.

    Mr. Butt at 73 you must be booted out soon otherwise you will take Pakistan cricketing credentials down and out very soon, best of luck with your endeavors :)

  • Dummy4 on May 22, 2011, 2:11 GMT

    mr krishnan this is unbelievable !

  • zain on May 21, 2011, 18:08 GMT

    @Krishnan Rajkumar i agree with u completely add anwar ali, nasir jamshed, and mohammed rizwan/safraz/ adnan altering for diferent 4mats

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2011, 17:26 GMT

    Pakistan cricket used to be all about passion ... now its more about controversies..that are uncalled for ! And until there is cleanup at PCB, such things will continue ! Starting with Mr. Butt himself !! I would agree that Afridi may not be the best captains ever, however, he was doing a better job than many of the others. Moreover, he should control the comments he makes in public, although there is no harm in voicing the truth, but the choice and timing of comments should be considered. Its about time Pakistan cricket re-established themselves.. and stay away for unnecessary bad publicity for some time.. but i guess its as hard as winning a WC in itself !

  • Sialkoti on May 21, 2011, 6:17 GMT

    Its all about power, player power, afridi wants power and butt is not willing to give that. Misbah is temporary solution as Butt is too, he will be gone in 3 months.

    I think Pakistan cricket is going to go down and down because of Butt and he don't deserve chairmanship at all.

    I hope best for pakistan cricket but the situation is so bad. they will make sure that no body plays cricket in pakistan like hockey. No more sports just politics and corruption will remain popular sports.

  • Zuhair on May 21, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    Misbah ul Haq is the only replacement left? the man is celebrating his 37rh Birthday on 28th May. How long is he going to stay and cause agony?

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2011, 21:00 GMT

    Afridi was an average captain, average bowler, below average batsman and had very poor communication and interpersonal skills; so he had to go, no big deal here. Misbah at 38 is teporary fill in for few months ? weeks. Who next for Pakistan is the important question? Given the situation where not 1 player can be guaranteed to be in the team on merit (let alone have leadership qualities) for the next 1-2 yrs, the situation looks very bleak. I feel Pakistan is going to have another 10 captains in the next 3 yrs. The best option in my opinion is let Pakistan's under 19 team represent as Pak seniors for a few years. They may start from the bottom but in a few years will have a stable well gelled unit with a few young, energetic and unadulterated leadership material. Will Ijaz Butt and rest of the PCB let it happen is altogether a different proposition.

  • Khizr on May 20, 2011, 19:08 GMT

    Spot on! - Butt must go. Imran Khan should be requested to take over.

  • Hassan on May 20, 2011, 17:52 GMT

    Afridi has no respect for his elders. Waqar Younis and Inzimam lost miserably in the first founds of their World Cups with star studden teams, and Afridi not only took his pathetic team to quarter final, he could have actually won the semi final, in which case he would have surely won the final. What a great insult to Waqar Younis and Inzimam. No wonder all mega stars are so angry on Afridi. Learn how to respect, you should have lost all of first round matches out of the respect for them. lol.

  • Tom on May 20, 2011, 17:50 GMT

    Pakistan batting is sad reminder of their current test ranking and their struggle against rookies like Rampaul and Bishoo shows that they don't belong to top five or six. Sadly, Mr. Butt, has to recall the old timers again. They are much better of playing Younis, Yousuf, Akmal, Kaneria and Razzaq than this bunch of novices.

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