October 20, 2009

Younis Khan stays as captain


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Uncertainty and unpredictability go hand in hand with Pakistan cricket. Nothing could be taken for granted in this part of the world. A captain can still be removed from office even after having performed beyond expectations and people can still get away with it after having taken the laws in their hands.

There were indications that the head of Younis Khan was to be put on the chopping block after Pakistan returned from South Africa, having made it to the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy against all odds.

The conspirators became proactive and the impression was being given that Younis had become a spent force and he needed to be replaced by someone as enterprising as Shahid Khan Afridi.

Even a few of the members of the Governing Body of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were openly lobbying for Shahid and they were not afraid to publicly criticize Younis for his performance or the lack of it in the just concluded Champions Trophy.

With the PCB members seeking his blood, Younis must have been under enormous pressure when he confronted the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Sports in Islamabad.

In fact he had arrived there ready in all respects. He had done his homework in the interim period. He appeared mentally prepared to face the criticism from the Standing Committee after the provocative statements prior to the hearing.

He might have been pleasantly surprised to be cleared of any wrongdoing after all that drama that surrounded the hearing but he still decided to submit his resignation to the PCB Chairman, Ijaz Butt, who was also present on the occasion.

It could have been a pre-planned move because this allowed Younis to hog the limelight once more and silence the guns that were being targeted at him. All of a sudden he became so innocent and the PCB Chairman acted according to the plot.

Soon afterwards Younis had a one-to-one meeting with the PCB Chairman in which he is reported to have demanded more authority and a long-term tenure in lieu of taking back his resignation.

The PCB bosses don’t have an option right now. They can’t be expected to pass on the Test captaincy to Shahid Afridi who might struggle to make the playing eleven all the time. Some quarters have pleaded for the reinstatement of Shoaib Malik but that would have been too early at this stage.

With so much of cricket to be played by Pakistan during the next 12 months there hardly is any need for the change of guard in any case. Sacking Younis only because Pakistan lost to New Zealand in the semifinals of the ICC Championships would have been ridiculous.

All seems well now with Younis having taken back his resignation. He is ready to lead the national team once more with the PCB lending him the much needed support. He has been confirmed as the Pakistan captain till the 2011 World Cup, subject to fitness.

"I am very happy right now. The faith that the chairman and the board has placed in me again, it's good to know. The support that I have received from the board and the country through this time has been fantastic," the Pakistan skipper acknowledged.

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