Profile of an ODI Captain
By Azhar Hameed
It has been a while since I wrote something on Pakistan cricket but the recent ODI and T-20
series defeat against England prompted me to analyze what exactly went wrong. The shambolic
performances cruelly exposed Pakistan’s vulnerabilities in various aspects but none more than
the men leading their respective sides. Since Afridi has already pre-announced his retirement
after the T-20 World Cup being held early 2106 therefore objectively speaking it would be futile
to comment on his captaincy competencies as he would be leading the Pakistan side in any case
barring of course any injury scares.
So I will keep my focus on the ODI captaincy. Nowadays there is so much of cricket being
played throughout the year that even the domestic T-20 tournaments carry an international flavor
i.e. Indian Premier League, Big Bash League, Caribbean League and now the Pakistan Super
League to be held early next year. Gone are the days where we would see a number of practice
matches being played by visiting teams before they took on the host teams for Test and ODI
series. Exceptions aside this basically means the cricket boards and their administrators have far
less time to groom players especially for captaincy. Generally there are two ways of going about
it, either appoint a captain and then select the team or select a team and then choose a captain
which is in fact the Aussie style of appointing a captain.
Given the brand of modern day ODI cricket being played at present, the profile of a captain has
to have atleast five key elements which I attribute as core competencies to lead a side. First and
foremost, a captain has to be an established player who contributes through his performances.
Secondly, he needs to be aggressive and should have the risk taking ability when faced up with
tight situations. Thirdly, he should be thoughtful and clear headed in his on field tactical
decisions. Fourthly, he must know how to get the best out of his playing eleven. And finally he
must command the respect of his team. One may argue over additional competencies too but I
sincerely believe that these five core competencies are bare essentials for a good captaincy role.
I am mindful of the fact that the success criterion for any captain is primarily based on the
win/loss ratio and even most of the successful captains would lose matches on a given day. And
at the same time the relative strength of any team in terms of its quality of players’ vis-à-vis
others may also be a deciding factor e.g. An Australian team versus a Bangladeshi team no
matter how good a captain the Bangladeshi team has. However, my point is that a good captain
would always have that what it takes to win against a stronger opposition with a weaker side as
compared to a bad captain who would often make a good side look a mediocre one against an
opposition relatively of the same strength.
I have followed Azhar Ali as a player since his international debut. He comes across as a fine
gentleman with an amiable personality. I know its early days for his baptism into ODI captaincy
and to be fair it would be a bit harsh to analyze his role as a captain in the recent series but may
be if we want to groom him into a potentially good captain than let’s just have a cursory glance
as to how Azhar matches up with the five core competencies as enumerated above. Firstly, he
has been drafted as a make shift opener and was unable to contribute significantly as an opening
batsman. Secondly, he came across as a docile character and at times was hesitant to take an
aggressive approach when the situation demanded. Thirdly, his tactical maneuvers were found
wanting whenever English team got the better of him. Fourthly, he appeared to be a lost soul
when it came to pushing his players to give their best when the situation demanded. On the final
competency, he generally seems to command the respect of his team mates but this aspect could
only be assessed over a longer period of time.
It is always never too late to make a change for the better but before doing this the PCB, the
selection committee and the Head Coach must decide and agree on the basic profile of an ODI
captain without which players like Azhar Ali would be picked and even before being really
groomed for captaincy would be discarded into oblivion for no fault of theirs or perhaps they
were never the right choice in the first place.