April 1, 2015 by McDowski
According to ESPNcricinfo, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to appoint Azhar Ali as the new captain for the ODI team, replacing the retired Misbah-ul-Haq.
This is simply a bad decision.
In a twist of irony, the other day I was discussing the future of Pakistan cricket with my friends. I mentioned how it was most important that Pakistan change their old tactics, forget about the cliched we-need-a-calm-stable-batsman-in-the-middle-order and get with aggressive. This wasn’t really rocket science. The sport of cricket has changed significantly since Pakistan’s heyday in the 90s. Just look at the four teams that made the World Cup final – South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India. You know what they have in common? All of them have an aggressive and attacking approach to the game. Misbah, Younis Khan… Pakistan’s middle order was a relic of the old days of cricket. What Pakistan needs to do, more than anything, is adapt to the modern game. Change their entire approach, and start anew from the ground up, construct a team that fits in with the demands of the sport. And that starts with appointing an appropriate captain.
My friend argued that they should re-instate Shoaib Malik. I argued that Malik hadn’t played in a long time, and besides, Pakistan cricket needed to just blow itself up and start fresh. And that meant not repeatedly going back to the same old people.
So, of course, the very next day after my conversation with my friends, the PCB decides that Azhar Ali will be the new captain. A Test match specialist batsman, someone wholly unsuited to the modern ODI format, and someone who has only played a grand total of 14 ODIs in his entire career. In fact, he hasn’t even played a single ODI since January 2013. That’s over two years without ODI experience, from a batsman who clearly never fit into the format to begin with. Of course PCB thinks he should be the new captain. The folly of this decision is shocking. Instead of adapting to the modern (i.e. attacking) game of cricket, PCB has decided to go completely the other way and make the team even more defensive, inevitably digging the team deeper inside their cramped hole.
Even Malik would have been a better choice than this. He, like Ali, hasn’t played an ODI in two years. Unlike Ali, however, Malik was suited to the ODI game. Unlike Ali, Malik does have a fair amount of ODI experience. Most importantly – unlike Ali, Malik actually has captained the team before. And he did a pretty decent job, too. You’re not going to find any odes written to his stint, but the result were actually impressive. In the 36 ODIs that Malik was captain, Pakistan was victorious 24 times. In fact, in terms of win percentage, of all the ODI captains that Pakistan has ever had, Malik’s rate of 66.7% ranks right at the top. I still stand by my original argument for not looking to the past, but, man! Malik would have been a better choice than Ali.
What disappoints me almost as much as the decision, if not more, is the reaction of Pakistan’s fans on the article’s comment section. The majority actually seemed pleased! Lauding the PCB for going with a “level-headed” player. It’s unbelievable. The fans are as clueless as the Board, convincing themselves that a ‘safe’ choice is the right choice.
Maybe the decision was good, after all. Not because Pakistan will have success under the captaincy of Azhar Ali, because they surely won’t. But only because, perhaps, this is the selection we deserve.
Welcome to the next few years of mediocrity.