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Friday, May 20, 2011

Will this nonsense ever end?

Ijaz Butt on Thursday pushed Pakistan cricket off the track when he sacked Shahid Afridi as captain just when it seemed things were falling in place for the national team.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman replaced Afridi with Misbah-ul-Haq — the veteran batsman who will turn 37 later this month — for the brief, two-match One-day International series against Ireland. Butt didn’t even bother to give any reason for Afridi’s sacking though he did announce that the flamboyant allrounder will continue to be a part of the national team.

“Misbah will lead Pakistan in the two matches against Ireland and Afridi will play as a team member only,” Butt told reporters in Lahore.

It is the eleventh time that Butt has changed a captain during his three-year tenure.

His decision couldn’t have come at a worse time. Under Afridi, Pakistan were finally showing signs of improvement which were evident in their series triumphs over New Zealand and West Indies — both away from home — and their largely positive showing in World Cup 2011.

It’s difficult to find any logic behind this move but there were signs that Butt was mulling over the option of bringing about a change. Recently he claimed about having crushed player power and then announced that he gave Afridi no guarantees about his captaincy.

It was apparent that by bringing in a new one-day captain, Butt wanted to give the message that he is boss. The PCB chief, according to sources, wasn’t happy with Afridi after the allrounder tried to speak about problems within the team management.

Though he didn’t name anybody, Afridi hinted after returning home from the Caribbean earlier this month that there was friction between him and Pakistan coach Waqar Younis. “It’s Butt’s way to teach Afridi a lesson,” said a source in the PCB. “The PCB chief can’t tolerate any act of indiscipline.”

However earlier this month, Butt did overlook a similar ‘act of indiscipline’ when he opted against taking any action when chief selector Mohsin Khan ran towards the media after being snubbed by the PCB chief over team selection for the Test series against West Indies.

Butt came under heavy fire for removing Afridi. “He helped you reach the World Cup semifinals. He was the best bowler of the World Cup. He led the team to back-to-back series wins and still got the sack. Its mind boggling,” said Salahuddin Ahmed ex- Test player.

“Afridi was a successful captain because he managed to bring the best out of a team that included a number of mediocre players,” he said referring to the fact that under Afridi Pakistan won 18 ODIs and lost in 15. Many of the wins came against stronger teams like South Africa, England and Australia.

Salahuddin also lamented PCB’s double standards.

“If he (Afridi) was sacked over indiscipline then why did the board fell short of taking similar action against others who have openly violated its code of conduct,” he asked.

Iqbal Qasim, the former Test spinner, lamented that PCB has become a one-man show. “Afridi has been punished for taking Pakistan to World Cup semifinals. This decision smacks of a one-man show in the PCB,” he said.

However, Zaheer Abbas was of the view that the Board cannot ignore disciplinary breaches. “Though I like Afridi, I must say that he shouldn’t have been giving irresponsible statements,” said the former Test batsman.

Meanwhile, Pakistan have made three changes in the squad with misfiring opener Ahmed Shehzad, Usman Salahuddin and pacer Sadaf Hussain failing to retain their places in the squad. Former Pakistan captain Younis Khan, who missed the Tests against West Indies because of his brother’s death is back along with Umar Gul. Also earning a spot in the line-up is Azhar Ali.

Pakistan squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Younis Khan, Taufiq Umar, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Salman, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Tanvir Ahmed, Junaid Khan and Hammad Azam.
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