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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Why should Afridi steer the ship

I want to say sorry to my nation”. This is what Shahid Afridi said on the 30th of March, 2011 when the team lost under his command in the semi final of the coveted World Cup to arch- rivals and eventual champions India. He apologized for leading a fragmented, jaded and weak team to the top 4; something which he envisaged on the 9th of February, 2011. The talismanic all-rounder was stripped-off from captaincy by the infamous ex-chairman PCB Ijaz Butt. This step must have delighted his critics, especially when we consider that the darling of the crowd took a short-lived retirement. However, much to their disenchantment, he came back with a vengeance; ever since his come back he has scored 335 runs and taken 29 wickets with 5 Player-of-the-Match awards. The captaincy conundrum has once again appeared in Pakistan’s cricket, owing to the likelihood of skipper Misbah’s removal from captaincy of the shorter formats.  The anti-Afridi lobby is vociferously campaigning against his reinstatement as skipper, but there is a strong rationale for giving him the crown which was unjustly taken from him, if and when the aging Misbah is boded out.
Firstly, statistics corroborate the fact that Afridi has performs well with both bat and ball as a skipper. However, there are people who baselessly say that the burden of captaincy hampers his own performance. It is noteworthy, that Afridi scored 753 runs and took 43 wickets, to include 21 in the World Cup. It is pertinent to mention some of his batting heroics; 15th June, 2010, 109 (76 balls); 21st June, 2010 124(60 balls); 29th January, 2011 65 (25 balls), and not to forget his quick fire 34 and 37 in England; 49, 24 and 29 vs. South Africa. There is perhaps, no need to shed light on his bowling exploits in that stint. Hence, the notion that captaincy saddles him is nothing, but hogwash.
Secondly, Afridi took command of a dejected, beleaguered and a broken team; one that was marred by the spot-fixing case, and made it almost the champions. After the lord’s test, Afridi led the team to a 2-3 loss in a closely fought series which we would have won had it not been for poor umpiring. The series was great for Afridi as skipper because he managed to take the best from the boys when the British crowd and media were shouting profanities. The series against South Africa was again a closely fought series which ended in the same result; he took the team to New Zealand and won the series amidst all the pressure that one can imagine. He never assured of leading the team; the World Cup started on the 19th of February, and Afridi was appointed skipper on the 4th of February. He still took responsibility of whatever that transpired in the mega event. In 2010, the team for the t20 World Cup was announced on the 15th of March while Afridi was named captain after 8 days. Why? This was unprecedented. Still the man didn’t raise an eyebrow.
Thirdly, Afridi always led with a great deal of passion which  was evident on the field. He must be given credit for instilling a winning attitude in a jaded team. He reposed confidence in players like Hafeez, Shehzad, Shafiq and Ajmal who were naïve at time, but they delivered because Afridi cajoled them. Now, almost all of them have made a mark for themselves. The way he used senior players like Razzaq and Akhtar was commendable, not to ignore some blemishes too.

At last, one needs to question the wisdom of the former head of PCB. He removed a successful captain who was gradually taking the team forward; new players like Asad Shafiq, Wahab Riaz and Ahmad Shehzad had found their feet; the team was an assortment of juniors and seniors. There was no pretext for removing Afridi.

In sum, Afridi ought to be reinstated as the skipper because of his aggressiveness, previous performances and the unfair removal from captaincy.

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