Pakistan captaincy – the poisoned chalice

The Pakistani captaincy has always been a bit of a poisoned chalice. Since the days of Imran Khan, Pakistani captains have usually been unable to retain the position for a significant length of time. While the captaincy circus has had an extremely de-stabilizing effect on the performance of the team, it does provide a fascinating insight into the sort of personalities that are more ideally suited to the captaincy and the factors that usually derail their tenures. This article takes a look at some of Pakistan’s more prominent captains since Imran Khan and provides a snapshot of their tenures.

Javed Miandad:
A street-smart, passionate cricketer who acted as Imran’s right-hand man for years, Javed was the perfect man to carry the team after Imran’s departure. Javed’s biggest asset was his immense understanding of the game. His biggest flaws were the lack of man-management and his often volatile anger. A famous example of his temper was his handling of Aqib Javed’s bouncer barrage against an English tail-ender in the 1992 series. Towards the end of his captaincy career, Javed captained Pakistan to a difficult series win against England. Despite his success and his stature as a top batsman, Javed was unceremoniously soon shown the door.

Won: 14, Lost: 6, Drawn: 14
Won: 26,Lost: 33

Wasim Akram:
A number of tries at the captaincy allowed Wasim to drastically improve his man-management skills. Wasim’s great asset was his natural talent and his immense work ethic that ensured that irrespective of the struggles of captaincy, the standard of his performance did not wane. Wasim’s standard motivational tactic was his insistence that his players, “enjoy the game”. During his peak captaincy years Wasim was immensely successful in galvanizing his immensely talented players as he led them to impressive performances in the 1996 Carlton and United Series, the 99 world cup and the tour to India.

However, it was during Wasim’s tenure that Pakistan’s gremlins while batting second really came to the fore. Rather than pushing his team to overcome this weakness, Wasim exacerbated it further, often choosing to bat first on unfriendly, seaming tracks (the world cup final in 99 being the most prominent example of this tendency).

Won : 12, Lost: 8, Drawn: 5
Won: 66,Lost: 41

Moin Khan:
An immensely intelligent cricketer, Moin played as Wasim’s right-hand man for years. When the captaincy was handed over to him he created an instant impact, leading Pakistan to impressive wins in Sharjah, the Asia Cup and in the West Indies. Moin’s biggest strength was his street smartness and his ability to get the best out of Wasim and Waqar while they played under him.

Problems started to surface during England’s tour of Pakistan in 2001 as Moin’s over-confident Pakistan team collapsed on the final day of the series. Moin’s defensive go-slow bowling tactics were widely criticized by pundits and his captaincy declined rapidly after that defeat.

Won: 4,Lost: 2,Drawn: 7
Won: 20,Lost: 14

Waqar Younis:
Waqar’s biggest strength was his ability to lead from the front. His captaincy was the antithesis to his bowling, defensive and lacking in thought. His zenith was the tour to England where he led by example. As a captain he lacked personality and charisma and towards the end of the 2003 world cup it was obvious to the neutral observer that he had lost command over his side.

Won: 10,Lost: 7
Won: 37,Lost: 23

A reluctant captain to start with, Inzamam’s tenure was characterized by some typically Pakistani captaincy traits. As his power grew, his ego grew with it and he finished his tenure branded as a “dictator”. Inzamam’s personality lacked the charisma to inspire the team. Instead he chose to use religion as a powerful medium to bring his team closer. This previously unknown approach initially yielded some encouraging results as controversies and disciplinary problems slipped into the background.

Inzamam’s biggest weaknesses were his defensive nature and his passive personality. WIth time he became more expressive on the field, sometimes throwing surprising tantrums on the field. Inzamam’s results followed a similar pattern to most Pakistan captains; he used spin and the pace of Shoaib Akhtar to grind out wins in the sub-continent and against weaker teams such as NZ abroad. However, on a testing tour to Australia his inability to inspire the team was ruthlessly exposed.

Won: 11,Lost: 11,Drawn: 9
Won: 51,Lost: 33

Younis Khan:
Had the potential to be Pakistan’s next great captain. Younis surprised everybody when he turned down the captaincy offer after the 2007 world cup. In true Pakistani fashion he finally gave in to the PCB and marshaled a famous win in the t20 world cup in England. Younis’s most admirable captaincy trait was his aggression and his intelligent field placements. His tenure was characterized by his backing of young talent. A century from Fawad Alam in Sri Lanka was an excellent example of his ability to promote young talent .

Younis’s big failure was his inability to extract the best from his batting lineup. This shortcoming was ruthlessly exposed during two inexplicable batting collapses in Sri Lanka that turned match-winning situations into depressing losses. As he himself acknowledged in interviews, Younis’s biggest problem was his sometimes stubborn attitude and his refusal to compromise with his players. His attitude rubbed people the wrong way and ultimately proved to be his undoing as a number of his players revolted against him.

Won: 1,Lost: 3,Drawn: 5
Won: 8,Lost: 13

Mohommad Yousaf:
As a stand-in captain for Inzamam in a homes series against SA, Yousaf impressed with his aggressive field placement and his calmness in two tricky games against South Africa. However, once he was handed over the captaincy on a permanent basis all hell started to break loose. Yousaf’s captaincy will forever be associated with the disaster in the Sydney test match where his stubborn refusal to attack Micheal Hussey cost Pakistan the game. Like many batsman captains he had turned into an extremely defensive captain and the tour of Australia proved to be the final straw in a quite disastrous tenure.

Won: 2,Lost : 6,Drawn: 1
Won: 2, Lost: 6

Shahid Afridi:
Afridi’s biggest asset was his larger-than-life personality and charisma that allowed him to carry a team shorn of star talent and raging with recent controversies. Afridi’s biggest drawback was also his personality , as his large ego and his inability to work with Waqar proved to be his undoing. His captaincy often lacked thought and aggression, reflected sometimes in his failure to set appropriate field settings for Saeed Ajmal and Mohommad Hafeez.

Won 0, Lost 1
Won 18,Lost 15

As a captain Misbah is calm, un-controversial, and intelligent. While his safety-first approach has rubbed some cricket fans the wrong way, it has undoubtedly been successful as Pakistan have racked up impressive victories. In the field Misbah usually makes the correct bowling changes and has been able to successfully marshall the rather limited test match bowling resources at his disposal.

Won: 4,Lost: 1,Drawn: 5
Won: 10,Lost :1

After observing such a diverse portfolio of Pakistan captains, one is instantly impressed by Misbah’s steely presence and his calm demeanor. The biggest potential obstacles to his success are his own batting form (which during his career has swung between sublime and ridiculous) and his occasionally defensive batting approach. Misbah’s inability to rotate the strike can often put unnecessary pressure on Pakistan’s middle order (Mohali’s semi-final being a classic example) and may eventually prove to be his undoing on ODI cricket.

Tough tours against England and perhaps India will be the litmus test of his captaincy . For now Pakistan cricket can revel in the glory of an unlikely success story.


About Assad Hasanain
Follow me on twitter @LeftArmAround

One Response to Pakistan captaincy – the poisoned chalice

  1. Shahab Nasir says:

    boy… this was impressive work

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