With the PCB getting into punishment mode, a number of senior players, Afridi included, were reprimanded; some harshly and others let off lightly. And while some of the bans were upturned by an arbitrator following appeals filed against them, the leaked video fiasco, which revealed another murky side of Pakistan cricket, with back-biting and camp-culture being prominent, has only made things worse.
And so as Afridi leads his side into the Asia Cup, it is of utmost importance that, first and foremost, he wins the confidence of all the players in the side.
There has never been, and will never be, a lack of talent in a Pakistan cricket team. But while past teams have managed to put behind their individual differences and play as a team on the field, recent evidence has suggested that the current bunch of players are heading in the other direction.
The disaster in Australia was a culmination of all things wrong with Pakistan cricket. Since then, a number of changes have been affected in the hope that things can change for the better. The Asia Cup will determine whether they, indeed, will.
The newly-married Shoaib Malik, who has taken most of the brickbats in recent times for his divisive tactics both as captain and player, has been included in the squad of the four-nation series in Sri Lanka, as has been the other Shoaib (Akhtar), whose made news more for his misbehaviour and freak injuries.
Afridi couldn’t have asked for a bigger challenge so early in his leadership career. Not only will be have to prove himself as a tactician, but he will even have to deal with the likes of Malik and Akhtar in such a subtle manner that they are made to feel wanted in the team, so that they can put their best foot forward for Pakistan’s sake.
This will be far from easy task. But then that’s come with responsibility of leading a side like Pakistan.
Apart from uniting the team, Afridi’s needs to lead from the front himself. And this too will be an equally challenging task since accountability and Afridi have never met each other in the swashbuckler’s 15-year international career.
This is one of the prime reasons why he was not a certainty in the side at one point of time. In fact even these days he is more in the team as a highly-effective and sometimes match-winning leg-spinner.
While his bowling has turned into his greater strength, it is of utmost importance for Afridi to bat with a lot more responsibility now that he is the skipper. One is not saying that he should change his natural gave but if a sense of restraint can aid Pakistan in these times, then it is definitely worth it.
In short, the time has come for Afridi to take on the role of senior statesman now that there are enough mavericks to replace him in the likes of Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer.
All the other Asian sides are viewing the tournament beginning on Tuesday as the first step towards finalizing the squad for next year’s World Cup. It’s the same case with Pakistan as well, but they have an additional headache of putting together a ‘team’ first.
Afridi may seem the most unlikely man to reverse the damage done to Pakistan cricket. But responsibility makes people act in peculiar ways. Who knows Afridi, the captain, might be the Man Friday Pakistan have been so desperately seeking. At least the fans would be hoping so.
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