Afridi an 'absolutely clueless' captain - team manager
Shahid Afridi has been branded an "absolutely clueless" captain in a report submitted by Pakistan team manager Intikhab Alam in the wake of the team's poor World T20 and Asia Cup campaigns.
The document by Intikhab, which follows an equally scathing report by coach Waqar Younis, covers the back-to-back T20 tournaments where Pakistan managed just three wins out of eight matches - with one of those victories coming against UAE. They exited the World T20 at the Super 10s stage following defeats against India, New Zealand and Australia.
The five-page report, a copy of which has been obtained by ESPNcricinfo, is hugely critical of Afridi's on-field tactics and off-field leadership, the lack of skills in all departments of the squad and how they became involved in "needless controversies" during the World T20, though Intikhab said the coaching and support staff performed their duties "most diligently".
"These very same reasons continued to be Team Pakistan's bugbear, but since this was a global tournament with the top-most competing for honours, the magnitude of the stress, and the pressure was even more pronounced," Intikhab wrote.
"The recent Asia Cup and the ICC World T20 have made it evident that we have critical gaps both in batting and bowling, and our fielding keeps on leaking runs, thus releasing pressure. In bowling, with the exception of Mohammad Amir, we do not have a bowler who can win us matches. Our death bowling also is way below par. And the same goes with our batting line-up, where we do not have reliable pinch hitters and the top and power hitter to clinch us games."
"To cap it all, the tournament was being held in India, where the team was under multiple scanners at the same time, pushing the stress and anxiety levels very high," Intikhab said. "Much to our chagrin [added to the above reasons], was a captain in his farewell event after a career spanning nearly 20 years, yet absolutely clueless in terms of on-field tactics and off-field leadership."
Afridi's captaincy was a regular topic of debate throughout the two tournaments. His decision-making came under scrutiny when Pakistan controversially dropped Wahab Riaz in favour of Anwar for the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh. Then there was the surprising move when Afridi promoted himself to No. 3 in the World T20 match against India at the expense of Mohammad Hafeez, who had made 64 off 42 balls in the previous match against Bangladesh, with Afridi subsequently scratching around for 8 off 14 deliveries.
In the field, too, questions were often asked. Against India, defending 118, Pakistan had made early inroads through Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Sami before a 61-run partnership between Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh for the fourth wicket took the game away. Amir, who conceded just three runs in his first two overs, was taken off and brought back when the game was all but lost, in the 14th over.
Intikhab continued: "We were also set back by two absolutely needless controversies, the first emanating from Afridi's 'more-loved-in-India-than-in-Pakistan' statement in his mandatory on-arrival press conference [had he stuck to the detailed briefing given to him by the media manager and myself, this would not have occurred] and Umar Akmal again stealing the limelight in an unseemly manner by seeking Imran Khan's intervention to fix his batting position at three, when he had done little to inspire confidence at number 4."
Pakistan won their opening game of the World T20 against Bangladesh comprehensively, and regained some confidence after a poor showing in the Asia Cup, when they posted 201 to set up a 55-run victory at Eden Gardens. However, in the high-octane atmosphere against India they fell to a six-wicket defeat and were then comfortably beaten by New Zealand and Australia.
Intikhab's report focused heavily on the game against India where he said "many factors were at play" including Pakistan's poor record against their "arch-rivals" at ICC events and he highlighted the rain in the lead-up to the match which had a considerable impact on conditions before referring to the invite handed to Imran Khan to address the team.
"On the day, the events also conspired against us. For one, the weather didn't help. On the same square where the Pakistan batsmen gave a commanding performance against Sri Lanka [the warm-up match] and Bangladesh, the weather suddenly turned from sultry and sunny to wet and unpredictable. Intermittent rain during the night prior to the game, followed by further downpours and overcast skies, meant that the pitch and outfield remained covered for more than 24 hours, changing its character from slow in pace to a spitefully turning and gripping one.
"To prop up the team's morale, Shahid Afridi invited Imran Khan (then in India for his own media and other engagements) for a pep talk prior to the game. Imran for his part tried to lift the morale, advising the boys to stay positive till the last ball was bowled, and never allow the possibility of defeat enter their consciousness. It was a pretty decent one as far as pep talks go, but it was evident that Imran - not unlike many outstanding exponents of the game from his time who have not stayed abreast with it - was not too familiar with the demands and tactics employed in this condensed, post-modern format of the game.
"I also felt if proper field placing was placed for Shoaib Malik in his initial over may have given us a breakthrough; it was very surprising to see in a low-scoring game there was no attacking field-placing. There was no slip; had he employed a slip cordon for Malik, we may have had Yuvraj as two chances from his blade went through.
"Earlier our batting, too, had left much to be desired. Hafeez was not sent in at number three while Sarfraz too did not get a meaningful strike. These two were our best bets, as they were our prime exponents against spin. The Indian spin attack was not challenged at all by our batting, save Shoaib Malik near the closing stages, resulting in a total that was 20 runs short of the average on the Eden Garden turf."
To support his criticisms of the batting order, Intikhab referenced various statistics including that of all the deliveries that Pakistan faced at the World T20, Sarfraz Ahmed only played 17 of them despite having made scores of 41, 25, 58 and 38 in his four T20I innings leading into the tournament. Intikhab termed the use of Sarfraz "a critical waste of talent and form."
He was also highly critical of Umar Akmal's returns, writing that his figures "are a damning expose on his game awareness and sense of responsibility" and said that Ahmed Shehzad, who had been recalled shortly before the tournament, was "equally poor."
In response to claims of factions forming within in the team, Intikhab said: "The news of groupings in the team only emerged after the team's loss to New Zealand. It may have been fed from inside the team only to divert attention and shift blame from the captain's and other boys' failure.
"In my opinion, to alleviate our situation in shorter formats of the game, we have to make a comprehensive plan at the Board level. And this includes improving our selection methods. Pick-up, drop, pick-up routine has not helped us at all, neither has bowing down to player power nor hanging on to the so-called 'talented mavericks' who refuse to learn, evolve and deliver."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson