manufactured outrage, etc.

17 09 2013

There’s some outrage and lots of ridicule on twitter and Facebook today about Afridi’s comments on TV after Pakistan’s lost to Zimbabwe in the second Test.

And some more on Facebook, such as here.

I saw the comments live on Geo and thought Afridi was pretty tepid, specially compared to Safaraz Nawaz etc.  Then I started reading the “quotes” originating from PakPassion. I don’t know if it was just a bad translation job (possible because they translated “players ko confidence dena” to “taking players into confidence”) or something more creative, but some of the quotes were pulled out of thin air. Most importantly, this one:

Afridi never actually said this. In fact he didn’t make any comment on Misbah’s captaincy and even the comments attributed to him about his willingness to accept the captaincy himself are quoted completely out of context.

Here is a link to the actual interview, thanks to Hassan Malik:

The video clip starts off with some behind-the-scenes footage of the host fixing his tie and asking the crew how he looks, that’s about the most controversial thing that happens for the next half hour.

And here’s an English transcript of the same, translations (and errors) mine:

Host: Pak lost to Zim after 15 years in a ODI and a Test, what can you say?

Afridi: Cricket history is filled with such performances. Small teams defeat big teams all the time. In a T20 or ODI it can get tough to make a comeback, but in a Test you have more time to recover. But these things happen, bari bari cheezain hoti hain.
Host: One day we play very well, the next day we suddenly lose terribly as if they don’t know how to play. How can we see a minimum of such days when fans cry?
Afridi: These things will continue. The way our system is, they will continue. You will have to do new things. Domestic cricket, I’ve been saying for a while, a lot of people have in fact (we need to make it strong). I don’t know why we’re interested in bringing foreign cricketers to Pakistan. We should make our domestic cricket strong, have zabardast, tagray tournaments in Pakistan. Don’t have them in Karachi and Lahore, where nobody comes to watch, have them in small cities so you can fill the stadiums. The crowds will come, the sponsors will come, money will come, a positive message will go out that cricket is going so well in Pakistan. There should be a plan and it should be followed. You should spend money on your domestic cricketers, everything will be fine. It’s not the Kashmir issue, it can be solved. There should be a united goal and it should be about Pakistan. This is my request – it should be about Pakistan, not your personal angles.
Host: If Misbah does tuk-tuk, the match goes away from Pakistan. If you get emotional and step out of the crease, people also point fingers at you. What’s the deal, would you like to say something?
Afridi: Let Misbah do tuk-tuk and let me play freely!
Host: You have to say something!
Afridi: Hahaha. Look, everyone has their own strength. Every player should play to their strengths. Confidence should be given (to the player) from the captain, the management, the coach – specially the coach. I think it’s important that confidence should be given (to the player). If someone plays the wrong shot, or plays too many balls, doesn’t score enough, it’s the job of the coach to at least sit with him and talk. We have to come a bit stronger. I think we need a bit of the stick with the carrot. Humay pyaar ke saath saath danday ki bhi zaroorat hai. This is what I think…
Host: You’re Pakistan’s favourite player but there are some people in the board who don’t like you. I would say “who cares?” but would you like to say something about them or about yourself?
Afridi: Look, thankfully, respect is in God’s hands. I’ve been playing with respect, and I want to continue playing with respect, good intentions and honesty for whatever cricket is left in me.
I’m not understanding (what’s going on with?) the Chairman Sahab. It seems like he has no powers in his hands. Poor thing isn’t able to do anything. He was bringing a new selection committee when Iqbal Bhai (Iqbal Qasim) left, and Moin Khan as chief selector, but he wasn’t able to do that. I heard a couple of his interviews and it seemed like he wanted to take a few decisions, but he wasn’t able to. I don’t know what their constitution says or what the courts say. Mujhay nahi pata kay kya storiyaan hain. But if he’s the chairman he should at least have the right to his powers, so he can take decisions. He’s learned a lot about who is working and who’s not, and who’s only picking up his salary. I think the board should give the chairman powers so that he can work freely, keep the useful, hard-working people in the board and sideline the ones who aren’t working.
Host: We lost to Zimbabwe but there shouldn’t be a blame game. Kick this one out, keep that one. Should we keep a combination of young players and seniors or stick to the seniors?
Afridi: I think we were playing Zimbabwe as if we were playing South Africa, England or Australia. Yaar, look at your level. The Pakistan team has a level. Played so well in the West Indies. You should lift yourself up and play. We totally went down to Zimbabwe’s level and played (that level of) cricket, be it ODI, T20 or Test match. We played cricket at their level. No! That’s not our level, our level, thank God, is much higher and we should have played accordingly. Unn ko theek thaak maar kay aana chahiyay tha hamay.
Host: Shahid, think carefully before answering this one. Many fingers are being raised against the foreign coach. If we speak of local coaches, your experience with Waqar Younis was quite bitter, ended up losing your captaincy. What would you say, if you are given a major responsibility for Pakistan cricket in 2015, will you accept it? [Aap kya kahen gay, Pakistan cricket kay liyay agar 2015 mai agar aap ko koi bari zimmedari di jati hai, toh aap iss ko labbaik kahain gay ya nahi]?
Afridi: Look, the first thing is, playing for Pakistan for me is still – it’s been 16, 17 years of playing – it’s still an honour for me. Whenever there is any thing, I’m always available for the Pakistan team, always, in any form. [Aur kabhi bhi koi bhi aisi cheez ho, hamesha Pakistan team kay liyay haazir hoon, bilkul haazir hoon, kisi bhi form mai haazir hoon.]
As far as what you said about the coaches is concerned, I think I am really in favour of Inzi bhai. We should have a batting coach who is respected, so that even if he needs to be stern with someone, he is able to because he is respected. [Jo agar kisi ko aankhain bhi dikhayen toh dikha sakhain, unn ki ek respect ho]. He has the respect (of the players) so the dressing room atmosphere is also (going to be) great because of him. A batsman comes after playing a (bad) shot, getting out, no worries (koi fikar nahi, koi faqa nahi), sits around, the joking and laughing resume. There should be pressure on batsmen. I think if Inzi Bhai is given the responsibility of batting, as a batting coach, not a head coach, I think batsmen will learn a lot and also there will be pressure on them to not play needless (fazool idhar udhar) shots.
[end of interview]

If anyone from PakPassion is reading this, I’ll quote the host from the beginning of the show here: “Iss ko kaisay banao gay?”


Butt out Butt

6 06 2011

What should a captain do when a board no one trusts won’t talk to him, but warns him against talking to anyone else?

what did i say now

Now what?

Ijaz Butt removed Shahid Afridi as captain after the ODI series against the West Indies. Butt and the PCB are yet to reveal why Afridi, ODI captain since the 2010 Asia Cup, was sacked after leading the team to two back-to-back ODI series wins, as well as to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Let’s look at what happened on the West Indies tour. Afridi had initially opted out of the West Indies tour, saying he needed a break and wanted to spend time with his family, but was eventually convinced by his father to go ahead. Pakistan started well, taking an early unassailable lead of 3-0 in the 5-match series, but lost the last two matches to a depleted West Indies side (though it was a tour for new faces for Pakistan as well). Afridi’s own performance was flat – he averaged just over 9 with the bat and 84.50 with the ball. There were reports that Afridi clashed with the rest of the tour selection committee (the coach Waqar Younis, vice-captain Misbah-ul-Haq and manager Intikhab Alam) over the selection of the final XI for the last two games. On his return to Pakistan, Afridi made the following comment in response to a query about said issues:

“Although the differences in team management are not such which could not be solved, I feel everyone should do his job and need not interfere in other’s work.” 

Reacting to this explosive (sic) comment, PCB officials admitted that there were “long-standing issues” over selection matters but hoped they would be resolved when Afridi met the chairman. That meeting never took place, and the PCB sent Afridi a notice demanding an explanation for comments it believed were against the board’s Code of Conduct. Afridi replied to the board’s notice, downplayed the issue in the media and also called Butt and got assurances (“dilasay diyay”) from him before leaving for a personal/fundraising tour of the US. Butt sacked Afridi as ODI captain while he was in the middle of his tour of the US. Afridi heard about it in the news, and after returning from the US, decided to quit in international cricket in protest against the current PCB administration.

We also know now that PCB selector Mohammad Ilyas and Shahid Afridi don’t get along, thanks to an ugly war of words between the two that’s being played out in the media.  Ilyas, sometimes better-known as the father-in-law of discarded Test opener Imran Farhat, was himself an opening batsman (avg 23.21 in 10 matches) and legspinner who once scored a 100 in Australia. The media “debates” between Afridi and Ilyas have taken on an ugly tone, which is regrettable, but some of the revelations that have come through them are startling.

Afridi has accused Ilyas of cronying up to Butt and conspiring against him. Ilyas, in response, has agreed that he is close to Butt and called upon Afridi to show some respect to the board that has, in Ilyas’ words, stood by him through many controversies. Ilyas also admitted – nay, boasted – that he refused to sign off on Afridi’s name being included in the SQUAD for the tour of the West Indies because he felt that Afridi was “not fit and wouldn’t do well on those pitches”. Think about this for a second. When the selection for the West Indies tour was being deliberated upon, Afridi had just returned from leading Pakistan to the semi-final of the World Cup in which he was the leading wicket-taker. He also would have had the semi-final’s man-of-the-match, Sachin Tendulkar, out 3 times in the semi-final which, if for non-Pakistani fielders. And here you have a cartoon who wanted to DROP him from the SQUAD for the very next tour. Forget the captaincy!

No matter how big a critic of Afridi you may be, you won’t agree that he deserved to be dropped from the squad on the back of that World Cup based on performance. An even more damning revelation to emerge from this exchange has been that Ilyas was the selector that the team’s Security Manager, Colonel Najam, reported seeing with Mazhar Majeed in a cricketer’s room on the tour of England at a time when the players had been specifically told not to meet Majeed. It was also hinted that this might have been the reason Najam was fired, albeit belatedly (after the Zulqarnain incident) from his role. The said report by Colonel Najam was submitted after the England tour, and no selectors have been investigated, let alone removed, since.

If you want to dig a little deeper, we can explore Afridi’s history as captain. He said he’s known of a conspiracy against him since the England tour, but I suspect he would have sensed it even earlier.

His first tournament as ODI captain was the Asia Cup in which Mohammad Amir was investigated for being on the phone in the dressing room – incidentally during a spectacular collapse the scorecard of which reads like Afridi was playing some other match – and Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt were asked by the ACSU to submit their phone records. In an interview to Geo TV after Pakistan were booted out of the tournament, Afridi stressed that discipline was his primary concern and he would not tolerate any violations, a threat that we now know fell on deaf ears. Thanks to NOTW and Mazhar Majeed as well as Salman Butt’s post-ban TV punditry, we now know that the same players – convicted by an ACSU tribunal for spot-fixing – hated Afridi and wanted him to be removed. It was also reported that Afridi formally called a meeting with Waqar and then-manager Yawar Saeed to alert them about his suspicions regarding Majeed, telling the players to stay away from him.

Afridi v Sri Lanka at the Asia Cup © Associated Press

His next assignment was the T20 World Cup where Pakistan were typically hit-or-miss, but somehow contrived a path to the semis where they were on course to win for 39 overs but lost due to a Hussey special. Details of text messages exchanged between Kamran Akmal / Salman Butt and Mazhar Majeed that emerged during the spot-fixing tribunal again suggest efforts that would have undermined Afridi’s captaincy. Colonel Najam reported that Mazhar Majeed was also “seen” on the tour.

Then came the England tour, before which Afridi says he was forced by the board to return to Tests. He lasted one Test before he realized that wasn’t a wise decision and announced his retirement in the post-match presser in typically rash Afridi fashion and, in so doing, paved the way for the fixers to get their man, Salman Butt, in charge. We all know how that went down.

The point I’m trying to make – in an admittedly long-winded fashion – is that a few extra extras have not been the only harm to come from corruption and controversy: an undermined captain who was left with weak reason to trust his board was an underrated setback.

Speaking of a cricket board supporting their captain, the PCB announced the squad without naming a captain on multiple occasions, including the squad for the World Cup. This all but eliminated Afridi’s input in selection matters. It also created for him the embarrassing situation of being asked about his vision for Pakistan’s World Cup team at a time when he was unsure not only about getting the team combination that would execute his gameplan, but also about whether he would even be captain come the next series. The point I’m trying to make – in an admittedly long-winded fashion – is that a few extra extras have not been the only harm to come from corruption, controversy and instability: an undermined captain with tepid faith in his board was an underrated setback.

Butt is yet to reveal why Afridi was sacked. Reports say it was his comments to the media about his issues with the coach that got him in trouble, but Butt himself made the following comment after saying that his reasons for sacking Afridi as captain were solid.

“We know Afridi won two series and that is why we didn’t act then [during the tour]. We couldn’t do anything more during that tour. Right now anything more I say will cause more tensions.”

This seems to suggest that Afridi was sacked for something that happened on tour, most likely the much-reported selection spat him and Waqar. The decision was announced after a report on the tour – and said selection spat – was submitted to the board by the manager Intikhab Alam, and before Waqar was summoned and met with the chairman to discuss the same. Afridi’s take on the matter was never requested, yet the chairman announced that he had “geniune reasons to sack Afridi.” It is ridiculous that such a big decision was taken without letting the concerned party know what the allegations were, let alone giving them the chance to defend themselves against them.

This is what Younis Khan, the last ODI captain appointed by the current PCB administration, had to say at the beginning of his tenure in May 2009 about whether he thought his captaincy would survive until the World Cup:

“I don’t think so (big laugh). I’m too aggressive, I can clash with someone anywhere, anytime. Many people tell me I should wait for the right (positive) time before speaking out, but that’s just not in my nature. Whether or not the team or I am performing, if there is something wrong, I will speak out about it. And I feel that this would quickly lead to my removal. (laughs) But I’m prepared for this. I’ll try to stay withing limits when I speak out, but I will speak out where I think it’s required – and I just feel that kind of behaviour is not durable in Pakistan.”

So, what should a captain do when a board no one trusts won’t talk to him but warns him against talking to anyone else?

Afridi told a talk show host he tried for months to work through all the issues that were being created for him but got fed when the PCB chairman closed the commication channel between them. I don’t blame him. He has had his fair share of controversies but he remains a straight-talker in a country where it is increasingly difficult to speak the truth. He has asked to see the tour report which supposedly got him sacked and one can only hope he will get the opportunity to defend himself, albeit belatedly.

It is also hoped that the PCB shows a similar level of proactive intent when it comes to, say, using some of the free 2011 World Cup TV rights’ cash to send some cricket-starved school-children to the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka next year, or draft a chapter in the Code of Conduct for the board’s “seniors”, some of whose last statements have included gems such as “Pakistan is safe for international cricket” and “Afridi is a scrap of paper from the street.” Maybe the next time a popular captain is unceremoniously dropped, he won’t find out about it through a breaking news ticker.

This blog was first published here.