Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oh Captain, My Captain

One thing I've realized very recently is that life can never be absolutely perfect, even for a day. Yesterday, I had one of those days where everything was going right. I somehow managed to read 150 pages of an extremely boring book in very quick time. I also managed to write a critical analysis of said book in next to no time. I made a great analogy in an IR class (Germany after WW2 agreeing to contain itself within the ECSC was like an alcoholic checking in to AA) that made everyone laugh. I never make everyone laugh, and somehow it happened yesterday. In short, yesterday was a perfect day.

I woke up to the news that Younis Khan said he doesn't want to be a "dummy captain" and the fact that resigned from the post for the Champions Trophy, throwing his future, at least as captain, in serious doubt. Like I said, life can never be completely perfect. So if you're having a really good day, be prepared to have read some pretty crappy news the next morning. It's just karma's (or God's, depending on your view) way of letting us know who's boss.

Obviously, there isn't much beyond the cricinfo report we have right now that can tell us what the hell happened. Bob Woolmer says there are "personal reasons". There are no fucking personal reasons, ok? At least not the Thorpe or Tresothick type of personal reasons, where someone is fucking his wife or his marriage is falling apart. Osman Samiuddin writes that reportedly it could be (a) the inclusion of Faisal Iqbal without his consent or (b) the fact that he was appointed captain only for the Champions Trophy. I would literally bet my life on the fact that it is not (b). It cannot be. He is too much of a team man, has way too much respect for Inzamam, and too badly wants the best for Pakistan cricket to be doing something daft like that. He knows (or knew) that his long-term chance was coming, and that it was only a matter of time. But that leaves (a), which is hardly a reason, at least in my opinion, to get up in a huff and resign the captaincy. But (a) is definitely more plausible than (b).

I don't think I can put in words my disappointment right now. Not about the immediate future, because like I said, I don't give a crap about the Champions Trophy. But what does this mean for our team going forward over the next 3-4 years? Can we discard our hopes of Younis becoming captain again? Will this somehow blow over, allowing Younis to become the greatest captain this country has ever had? (And yes, if he were to captain on any long-term basis, he would be the best captain this country, maybe any country, has ever had. I'll get to this in just a second).

Right now, it doesn't look great. The PCB said he should have gone to them, rather than the media, which is of course absolutely right. The cricinfo piece also quotes an unnamed PCB official as saying his chances of captaincy in the short-term are "extremely dim". This may or may not concern me, depending on your view of what constitutes "short-term". He wasn't going to be long-term captain before the end of the World Cup, at the earliest, anyway so if that's their definition of short-term, then fine. But I have serious fears here. What the hell could piss him off so much that he went straight to the media and essentially gave everyone, including the PCB and, yes, us fans the finger?

The only ray of hope I have is that this current management team (i.e. Shahrayar Khan, Woolmer and Inzi) have always nipped conflict in the bud, unlike the Pakistani teams of the 90s, and have been good with ensuring harmony in the team. Remember how quickly the Afridi retirement thing blew away? Or the Younis-Afridi phadda in the Windies? Or, most of all, Shoaib's elevation from persona non grata to "just another one of us, yaar"? If they forgave Shoaib for all his bullshit, won't they forgive Younis? I guess the answer to that question depends on what the fuck persuaded him to do this in the first place.

Make no mistake, if Younis doesn't become captain after Inzi retires, it will be our loss, not his. Well, it will be his loss as well, but it'll be a much bigger loss for us. We were grooming the absolute perfect captain, the type you'd create in a lab if you could. Am I exaggerating his value as captain? I don't think so. As the Daily Times editorial board might say, consider:

There are, broadly speaking, two types of great captains. One is the inspirational/uniter/team spirit lifter guy. The guy who gives a team an identity, or a belief to win, or brings them all together for a common cause. Examples of these captains are Imran Khan, Ganguly (when he could still bat, that is), Allan Border and Nasser Hussain. What do all of these guys have in common? They all have exceptionally strong personalities, they all had the respect of everyone in the team and they all managed to change a culture of a team for the better. Let's call them the Braveheart captains, because you can imagine them on a horse using ridicuously bad Scottish accents giving inspirational speeches.

The other type of great captains are the ones who are tactically brilliant, the guys who see where the game is going before it does, the guys who always have the right hunches about bowling changes or field placings. They make their bowlers better than they really are by giving them fields and using tactics that they wouldn't otherwise use. Examples of these types of captains are Michael Vaughan, Javed Miandad, Stephen Fleming, and the best I ever saw, Mark Taylor. What do they all have in common? They're aggressive with their field placings (though not excessively so), are astute readers of the game and never let the game drift. If something's not working, they'll change it, and come up with a better idea, out there on the field. Let's call them the Michael Corleone captains, because you can imagine them being shrewd enough to put a gun behind the toilet flush in a restaurant.

Can you see where I am going with this? Can you imagine a captain who's a 9/10 on the Braveheart scale and a 9.5/10 on the Michael Corleone scale? That's Younis. THAT'S FUCKING YOUNIS! And it wasn't just his intrinstic qualities as captain that made (make?) me look forward to his tenure so much. There were two other issues. One, his batting has come on, as they say, leaps and bounds. In his last 15 matches, he's made 6 hundreds and averaged 70. He has become a reliable no.3, something which Pakistan has never had, with the possible exception of Zaheer. The second thing is the fact that he was being groomed for so long. Everything was going perfectly. He wasn't being rushed into the job, he was allowed to get comfortable with the role of vice-captain and earn the trust of his teammates and coach, and he was allowed to work on his batting while Inzi and Woolmer set up a regime for success. It's not just about being a great captain, it's also about being a great captain in the right circumstances. And the circumstances were playing out beautifully. The system around him was being put in place. Match-winning bowlers, a key to any captain, were coming up (Dani and Asif). And as Inzi, as honorable and loyal a servant Pakistan cricket has had, rode off into the sunset, Younis would take over and take us to the next level, like the Hussain-Vaughan or Taylor-Waugh transistions. Now? Everything's in doubt.

Like I said, we can only hope that this is one of those situations that seems a bigger deal right off the bat than it actually is. Maybe it dies down, with some sort of disciplinary action, a hearing of his grievances and a kiss-and-make-up session. But what if it doesn't? What if the PCB decides to be vindictive, and we never get the chance to see Kaneria and Asif bowling in tandem on the fifth day with Younis setting the field? Under Younis, we had the potential to be the best team in the world by 2008/09 (provided we found even a half decent replacement for Inzi at 5). Under Yousuf (or anybody else for that matter), all bets are off.

I have to go do some real work now, so that's it for me. This is definitely one issue I'm keeping my eye on. Oh, and by the way, I am almost 100% sure that we are now going to win the Champions Trophy. That's just how Pakistan cricket works.


Farooq said...

I ejaculated twice reading the last three quarters of this blog. I need to get some orange juice in me.

Ahsan said...

goddamn farooq, this is a family website. pls keep your usage of the terms "ejaculated" and "date rape" to a minimum.

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