October 11, 2009

Shahid Afridi likely to be handed over captaincy sooner than later


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

If the recent statements by some of the Board officials serve as any indication then Younis Khan’s days in office appear to be numbered with the ‘establishment’ putting its entire weight before Shahid Afridi.

The manner in which Younis is being condemned with Shahid being promoted as a more proactive cricketer there’s ample evidence to suggest that a change is in the offing and it seems a matter of time for the decision to be announced.

Unfortunately the affairs of the cricket board in Pakistan have been run unprofessionally more often than not over the years and now it could be the turn of Younis to face the music.

Isn’t it funny to note that Younis has sought audience with the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ijaz Butt, in which he would discuss his fitness and availability for the one-dayers against New Zealand in Dubai in November?

Did the Pakistan captain need to approach the top official of the PCB just to let him know about his fitness? There is a whole army of managers to general managers in the PCB who are being obliged with salaries and perks worth millions of Rupees every month. Isn’t anyone of them capable enough to look into this matter?

What about Wasim Bari, the Chief Operating Officer of the PCB? Doesn’t his job description include keeping track of things as important as the fitness of the captain of the national team?

The whole world knows that Younis had fractured a finger on the eve of the ICC Champions Trophy last month. He had missed the opening game against the West Indies which Pakistan won under the captaincy of Shahid Afridi.

There are conflicting reports why Younis returned to side without regaining fitness. One school of thought believes had he had to fast track his return because he felt threatened to lose his job if the team continued its winning streak under the caretaker captain.

Younis is also reported to have prevailed over the team management who were not very keen to let him play before fully recovering from the fracture. On the positive side, he didn’t desire the team to suffer on the account of inexperience as his ouster would have definitely created a big hole in batting.

The decision of Younis to continue playing despite carrying the injury brought mixed results. He didn’t get many runs against India but his brilliant direct hit to run out Gautam Gambhir turned the tide decisively in Pakistan’s favour. The way the left-handed Gambhir was flaying the bowling only a freak dismissal could have brought about his demise and so did it happen.

Younis did fairly well in the last league fixture against Australia, the eventual champions. All the pressure was on the Australians and the Pakistan captain had every reason to smile throughout the game that produced a close result rather unexpectedly.

The New Zealanders, after a very long time, managed to put their acts together against Pakistan and there was not much Younis could have done. He did drop a sitter but that’s very much a part and parcel of the game and doesn’t merit suspicion or clarification.

If the movers and shakers of the PCB have already decided to bring in Shahid in place of Younis then the latter might be, for the purpose of face-saving, may be advised to declare himself unavailable for the upcoming ODI series against New Zealand.

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