Captaincy issue haunts Pakistan again

Last Updated: Jan 16, 2011, 14:35 PM IST

Lahore: The ghosts of captaincy have once again come back to haunt Pakistan cricket team with some players and officials raising questions over the behaviour and attitude of current skipper Shahid Afridi.

Well placed sources aware of developments in Pakistan cricket have told PTI that Afridi retained the captaincy for the one-day series in New Zealand just by a whisker.

"They were serious deliberations within the board on retaining him as captain after getting some negative reports about his behavior and attitude after the T20 series in New Zealand," one source disclosed.

"Right now there is a 50-50 split within the board and in the team management on whether Afridi should be allowed to captain the team in the World Cup or this responsibility should pass to Misbah-ul-Haq," the source said.

He said there were different reasons for Afridi losing favor with the establishment. One of them were growing complaints from fellow players and team and board officials that he was too friendly with the media.

"The second complaint was that he was too over bearing and was making some players uncomfortable and unhappy with his attitude. Plus the crucial issue of his own performances have also come under the scanner," another source said.

He said that team manager Intikhab Alam and coach Waqar Younis had conveyed to the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt after the one-day series in the UAE against South Africa that some players were not feeling comfortable playing under Afridi.

"That is the reason why Ijaz Butt called him for a meeting in Lahore recently in which he was told in clear terms to change his attitude and pull himself up," the source added.

The PCB has announced Afridi as captain for the ODIs in New Zealand but have stopped short of announcing him as World Cup captain although the tournament begins from February 19 while the series in New Zealand ends on February 5th.

"This is because Butt is still uncertain about what to do," the source said.

He said that the selectors were keen to also name the World Cup squad this week but it was put off because of the captaincy issue.

"There is a possibility now that the board might announce the World Cup squad on January 19th but wait until the series is over in New Zealand before announcing the captain for the World Cup," the source said.

The source said that the selectors had also decided to drop former captain and senior batsman Muhammad Yousuf for the World Cup although he was in the list of 30 probables.

"Yousuf is out of the World Cup and this could spell the end of his career," the source said.

The source said one reason why Butt was still reluctant to change Afridi at this stage was because of the short time left for the World Cup.

"There is a concern that if the move backfires and if the team flops in the tournament the blame will come on the board that it made a big mistake changing the captain so late," the source said.

Former captain Wasim Akram has also advised the board now to retain Afridi as captain as there was little time left for the World Cup.

But there is a strong lobby in the board and in the selection committee that believes if Misbah-ul-Haq is able to guide the team to its first Test series win in four years time he becomes a certain choice to lead the team in the World Cup as well because he is in form and also because of his mature approach and better communication skills with the players," the source said.

This is not the first time that Pakistan cricket is facing a tough choice of this nature as in 2009 after winning the T20 World Cup, Younis Khan faced the same situation from his own players.

PTI