‘Put a turkey in charge of a cricket team and, before long, all and sundry will be squawking’

2009-11-14 00:00

YOUNIS Khan has resigned as Pakistan captain and put his career on hold. He is not expected to take on the Aussies on their own patch in the new year.

Meanwhile, Chris Gayle has been reappointed as West Indian captain and will lead the team in the forthcoming series down under. It’s the wrong way around. And it's not so much a minor mistake. In both cases it's a capitulation.

No wonder Australian crowds are showing little interest in the visits of these fractured teams. South Africa will have a lot more fun against England. At least both outfits have strong leaders and seem intent on putting their best foot forwards.

Cricket teams depend on their captains. Put a turkey in charge and before long all and sundry will be squawking. Put a lion at the helm and presently the pride will be playing with pride. Other sports can talk about coaches and managers and whatnot. In cricket, the captain sets the tone and decides the tactics — it's a tough job.

Only the arrival of a baby changes a man’s life as much, and in that case their are two people involved. A cricket captain is isolated in office. At once, he is supposed to be Sigmund Freud, Napoleon, Kofi Annan, Don Bradman, Mother Teresa and Henry Ford. At times every captain feels like roaring: “ I am only human. Get me out of here!”

Whether Younis’s removal or Gayle’s reappointment is the bigger calamity is a matter of opinion, but it is a close-run thing. Younis is a cultured, humorous man. He is also a top class batsman, the best his country has produced since Javed Miandad. As captain he has been trying to hold together a team unable to play matches at home and affected by defections to ICL and rampant egos.

Through it all his reputation has remained intact. And then the gripes began as the usual suspects tried to replace him with someone amenable. Mohammed Yousuf, the new leader, went so far as to contact Inzaman-Ul-Haq about taking up the position. Inzy is not quite the lazy, loveable buffalo of his caricature. To the contrary, his involvement in ICL, inexplicable tactics, numerous run­outs and crafty manoeuvrings indicate that he took Pakistan cricket in the wrong direction.

All too soon, Younis faced all sorts of allegations. Supposedly, Pakistan threw away the match against the Australians in the recent Champions League because it meant certain elimination for India. Younis dropped a sitter, (a fate all cricketers have suffered) and did not score many runs. However, his team fought to the end and the Australians squeaked home thanks to Brett Lee’s calm batting. Nor were his accusers the usual Internet hotheads. To the contrary, he was blasted by politicians in India and Pakistan and hauled before his own board.

If that was not enough of an insult, Younis next found himself surroun­ded by the same ratbaggery on the field. The crunch came in last week’s deciding ODI against the Kiwis. Cha­sing 206, Pakistan collapsed to 9/101 as the batsmen played a succession of wild strokes. As it happened, the last pair promptly added 100 and their team came within a whisker of pulling off another mercurial victory.

Younis took it personally and regarded it as part of the scheme to unseat him. Periodically, echoing Frankie Howard, every captain feels like shouting “infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in-for-me!” In Younis’s case he might have been right. In this most critical of all hours for Pakistan cricket it might have been supposed that senior players, coaches and board might be able to work together. Instead, Younis had been let down.

His replacement is a former Christian, one of four to play for Pakistan, who recently converted to Islam. Turning his back on his country, Yousuf signed for ICL, the independent T20 competition that seems to have packed its bags. In time he was welcomed back to the fold. Incredibly he has been made captain. It all could have been avoided. Instead, it is another black day in Pakistan cricket.

Gayle’s appointment as West Indian captain was feckless and foolish. He should have been sacked after he swanned around in IPL when he was supposed to be preparing his team for a series in England. Nor did Gayle and his players deign to show for the Champions Trophy held here­abouts.

Gayle claims to care about West Indian cricket, but it’s a facade. It’s all been about money. He is shallow and selfish. Daren Ganga is the man for the job, with Dinesh Ramdin as his deputy. Most of the past players are as bad as the current mob. Only Michael Holding, Ian Bishop and, latterly, Brian Lara impress. The rest are living in their pasts. Between them, they have turned West Indian cricket into a busted flush.


Peter Roebuck is an international cricket correspondent who is based in the KZN midlands.

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