Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme is listed in Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, and as the “most successful” science fiction series of all time. It has been recognised for its imaginative stories and creative low-budget special effects during its original run.
Perhaps the Guinness Book of Records has no idea that we have had our own unofficial longest-running show which we call “Captain Who?” produced by the PCB. The only difference is that it is not science fiction, but a reality show (though for the rest of the world the saga of the Pakistani cricket captaincy is in the realm of science fiction).
Fourteen cricketers have captained Pakistan in the last 17 years, some of them (Wasim Akram, Rashid Latif, Younis Khan), captaining more than once in their career. Mohammad Yousuf did lead Pakistan in two Tests in 2004, but that was as vice captain when skipper Inzamam sat out these matches in Australia.
As if four captains tried in last two years has not been enough, we now have four candidates for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup, three of whom will be first-time captains if chosen. Only one of them, Salman Butt, has captained Pakistan at the Under 19 level, but all of the candidates have captained their regional sides over the last few years.
I have already stated my reasons for thinking that Abdul Razzaq is the front runner. Still, the PCB chairman has gone for a smoke screen strategy and met with the four candidates as if he has yet to decide. The idea is to get to Razzaq through this process so that it appears a well-thought out decision during which Afridi was given another hearing as well.
Whatever has been said in that closed-door meeting is not known, but one newspaper has reported that Afridi has supported Razzaq as a choice if he is not chosen himself owing to a six-month probation. Obviously, something has been said to Afridi to prompt this statement (if the newspaper story is true) to show that Razzaq is a consensus candidate.
Meanwhile, I’d like to analyse the four candidates on merit. Let’s look at their strengths and weaknesses and then readers can weigh in on who they think should be captain.
The captain in T20 until he was brushed off for the ‘Toothgate’ scandal, he deserves the position on merit. He has the personality traits of fearlessness, motivating power, aggressiveness, energy and enthusiasm for the job. Over the last year and a half he has curbed his hara-kiri style for more selective strokeplay, considering what was once unimaginable with him—rotating the strike.
But it is the resurgence in his bowling that has propelled him as one of the most difficult bowlers to score off. Top spinners and faster deliveries are the major weapons in his armory. His fielding, especially off his own bowling, is up there with the best. He therefore has what it takes to make the ideal captain: leadership traits and current form with both bat and ball.
His weaknesses are that he is emotional, can lose control in front of media, and still plays too flamboyantly for a captain. He would be my choice for the captaincy, bite or no bite.
He has previous experience of captaining in the T20 format, having led the Lahore Lions to the final a couple of years back. He has the quiet resolve that can keep his focus on the game, has been bowling and batting well, and is a good finisher (but only on his day.
But he too has weaknesses. He takes omission badly, especially when justified, which shows immaturity and lack of self analysis. He has basically one boundary scoring shot that lands between, or goes over, long off and square leg. He has difficulty scoring when pitched short outside off stump at waist to shoulder height. He is also a loner on tours, is unfit most of the time, and his teammates will not look upon him with the same respect as a leader as they have for his cricket abilities.
He has captaincy potential in a long run, but only for Test matches. That said, he has to bat more consistently to be considered if merit is a factor, and not just the PCB Chairman’s whim. Butt has guts and a cheerful demeanour both on and off the field, and he’s more mature than any player in his age group. Importantly, he’s never been embroiled in any controversy of his own making. He batted solidly in the Test matches in Australia, which is always a test for any opener. Among his teammates since his debut in 2003, he remains the most composed and presentable in front of the media.
His weaknesses include constant swishing outside the off stump, lack of footwork against spinners, and irresponsible shot selection when well set. He has also been known to bat selfishly, especially in the limited over formats during which he often lets down his team at the expense of his personal glory. Moreover, Butt is still a shaky fielder and can be seen to be a lazy runner who will rarely dive.
Misbah should never have been dropped after his performance in ODIs against Australia in 2002 in Nairobi. His resurgence in 2007 proved what Pakistan had missed in the intervening years: his cool-headed batting, especially under pressure, matches Yousuf’s temperament. An orthodox batsman with reasonable technique, Misbah explodes suddenly and takes bowlers by surprise. He’s one of the safest catchers close up.
His weaknesses are to the shorter ball, but notwithstanding his form over the last year, he has tackled all bowling with prudence.
I would have opted for him as captain once Inzamam-ul-Haq retired and Younis was not interested in the captaincy. He is a great analyst of the game and has led Faisalabad and his department with success. More importantly, he stands tall among his teammates as a go-to man, boasting the steely steadfastness of a Steve Waugh.
So, in my opinion, if Afridi is not selected as captain, the post should go to Misbah. What do you think, people?