Leaders are born not made. On a cricket ground, a person marching 10 men army to fight for the honor and glory for his country is called captain. Captaincy is regarded as the most difficult task in cricket as compared to other sports where managerial staff has the leading role. It is like a game of chess in cricket as you put up your strong pieces together and try to make right moves without blinking. Gentleman’s game have seen a lot inspirational and innovative captains changing the fate of their country’s cricket and eventually ensuring its supremacy in international arena. In fact, the quality of this art have taken precedence over cricketing ability quite a few times, as demonstrated by Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Mike Brearley and Darren Sammy in the past. There is a list of great captains taking their nation’s pride to another height and few of them belong to my beloved Pakistan.
Pakistan have seen more than two and a half dozen captains in space of 65 years since they got their Test status in 1952. The post is regarded as a musical chair and most difficult task in our ever changing cricketing system. Despite all the troubles Pakistan cricket faced, it has been able to produce some great captains and touch its pinnacle. Late Abdul Hafeez Kardar being the first ever captain of Pakistan and one of three players who played for both India and Pakistan hits the top of list as he defeated all the test nations captained against. The Oxford educated Kardar was stubborn, authoritative, proud and instrumental in selection of his team. He himself was a mediocre player, but used to carve out strategies and expected young inexperience players to stick by that. He was treated as a fatherly figure by his young team mates and followed despite the fact that, cricket board was not able to pay the players fully even for their kits. A feather in his cap is his first England tour where he was able to motivate his men and drew the series level after being down and out at the start of it. Indeed his services for the nation are undeniable and hold a special place in our hearts.
After the departure of autocratic Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Pakistan’s performance nose-dived and team was left stranded with leadership vacuum. The hunt for a shrewd, aggressive and dependable captain ended with another Oxford educated flamboyant and charismatic cricketer, named Imran Khan. Before captaincy, he had established himself as one of the best all-rounders in the world and was ready for the monumental task ahead. His period as captain of Pakistan was roller coaster ride, he suffered from a frightening stress fracture in his shin, had problems with selection process and cricket board. He once said in an interview that “It’s the Captain’s head on the chopping block”. Therefore, Captain should have the final say in the selection. He united a weak team with his belief, hard work and leading from the front attitude, as his personal record speaks for itself too. As a Captain, he was dictatorial, showed tactical smartness, played mind games with opposition, promoted youngsters, did not compromised on fitness and exhibited anger on the field at occasions. Under his regime, Pakistan team won the series against England in England and India in India for the first time. Besides, Pakistan drew level with invincible West Indies in West Indies and became the No 1 ranked test side in 1988 .Pakistan also won the 1989 Nehru cup World Series final under his captaincy as he was man of the match too. The biggest feather in his and Pakistan’s cap is still the 1992 World Cup victory, where he was able to won the cricket’s biggest tittle in the twilight of his career banking on his cornered tigers.
Great Imran Khan Retired soon after the glory and left a bread of great cricketers for Pakistan who could not do justice to their ability. The search of a good leader continued and Pakistan found one in 2009 for a short stint. I am referring to the Pakistan’s most successful and only Test batsman in the 10,000 club. Being a straight forward man and strict Captain, he could not withstand silly mistakes and at times in crunch situations showed his emotions on the field. He carried on the legacy of great Imran Khan and won the 2009 ICC World T20 Tournament for Pakistan in a situation where International cricket was taken away from our home due to terrorism. Due to lack of cricket at home, Pakistan’s cricket started facing a steady decline and in the meanwhile, a person could hold it on together faced revolt in his own team and was forced to resign by sluggish, incompetent and corrupt authorities. Despite all this, he played for another 8 years for the country and regained all his pride through his honesty, diligence and performance.
Pakistan’s cricket decline continued after Younas Khan’s departure and went through the spot fixing turmoil. It seemed like it is moving towards a steady demise and then came to the scene, a 36 year old one men army, Misbah-ul-Haq. He went through a lot of criticism because of his defensive mindset, humble personality and slow batting style. In fact, he was named Mr.Tuk Tuk by some of his critics. But, he was able to put behind all the criticism and stood tall in difficult times by playing his natural game. He could not bring radical changes in the team and cope up with demands of modern cricket. One reason for that might be his soft nature and passive behavior which lead young players towards complacency. Pakistan team suffered miserably in ODI’s specially and went down to no 8 at the end of his regime. . He tried his best with whatever resources he had and performed well specially in Test arena. The one format in which Pakistan team dominated in his captaincy was Test Cricket and became No 1 in 2016 by drawing level with England in England. It was a dream come true to have Test Mace at home as international cricket is still being awaited.
Misbah and his successor left Pakistan’s ODI cricket in tatters and it became a No 9 team. In the same period, Pakistan despite having not played modern day cricket, qualified for the Champions Trophy after being on the cutting edge. In all those years, the only player, who kept himself at pace with modern day game was flamboyant and brave wicket keeper batsman, Sarfraz Ahmed. He seemed to be a ray of hope and had already captained Pakistan under 19 team, Departmental team and PSL franchise was made Captain of Pakistan T20 and ODI team. His past credentials as Captain at lower tiers favored him in a big way for the post as he led Pakistan U19 to a world cup win and his PSL franchise to the finals twice. The street fighter of Karachi did not disappoint the nation and led the No 8 team, unexpectedly, to the first ever Champions trophy victory in his third series as Captain. He is able to change the mindset of Pakistan team and enforce his players to play fearless modern day cricket with his strict, nothing to lose attitude. Surely, he is trying to continue the legacy of his great predecessors with his non compromising attitude and smartness. If PCB can bring positive changes in our domestic system and give Sarfraz Ahmed a long run, than indeed, we have a bright future ahead.
By – Muhammad Qasim Ashraf