Inzamamís one-day leadership on the line
By our correspondent
KARACHI: The Pakistan Cricket Boardís (PCB) Ad-hoc Committee may have reposed confidence in Inzamam-ul-Haqís captaincy for the next 11 months but apparently rumblings have started in the corridors of power over whether he should be entrusted with this responsibility for such a long period and particularly of the One-day International (ODI) team leading up to the 2007 World Cup.
Because if one is to believe well placed sources in the PCB then it took a threat from Inzamam to force the committee to retain him for another year. ĎThe Newsí has been told by these sources that there was plenty of debate and discussion on Inzamamís future role as captain especially in the ODI squad after the team had gone down 3-1 to India in the just concluded series.
One day after the committee meeting that reposed faith in Inzamam, Pakistan lost the ODI series by a margin of 4-1. "The scenario was that Inzamam had let it been known to the PCB chairman and other committee members that if any move was made to remove him as captain he would also step down from the team immediately," one source claimed.
"He conveyed Ďthreatsí not to play against India in the final game if the committee didnít extend support to him and appointed him as captain as close to the World Cup as possible," the source claimed.
Inzamam has been named captain until the West Indies tour of Pakistan, which is from October to end December this year after which the Pakistan team goes to South Africa and then to the World Cup in the West Indies in late March.
"The committee members were obviously not happy with the situation but decided to go along for now to not to create an uncertain situation. But already there are rumblings that the Board needs to seriously reassess Inzamamís fitness and the percentage chances of his being in form and 100 percent fit by the time of the World Cup," the source said.
These sort of happenings are not uncommon because such is the volatile nature of Pakistan cricket that a run of defeats by the national team can at times serve as a powder keg for the team captain and other management.
Inzamam turns 36 next month according to his official age chart and will be 37 before the World Cup starts and the source said the committee members had raised this point with Shaharyar Khan who asked them to support the senior player at the moment.
"The main questions being asked are about the viability of retaining him (Inzamam) as captain of the one-day squad for the World Cup given his age, chronic back problem and fitness issues. There is also other issues on which coach Bob Woolmer and the chairman so far have kept quiet as the team was doing well in the last one year." "But Woolmer privately has told the chairman that Inzamam is not an active participant in the training routines set out for the other players and his fitness levels have been falling."
"But since the team has been doing well under Inzamam, Woolmer also knew it was best for him not to make an issue of this and keep quiet. Because in Pakistan when the team is doing well every ill is ignored and itís only when it starts losing that everyone starts spotting the obvious deficiencies," the source noted.
The source said even Shaharyar Khan had pampered Inzamam to a large extent due to the teamís good results but now the situation is changing. "He (Shaharyar) even allowed Inzamam to sign contracts with the media, something which is not allowed generally in Pakistan cricket and later also had to give permission to some other players."
He disclosed that a strong lobby in the PCB, which had for long been upset with Inzamamís attitude, had already started a whispering campaign that Younis should be made captain of the one-day squad and Inzamam told to concentrate on leading the Test side and then making himself available only for the crucial one-day games.
"Clearly, one-day cricket now is a young manís game and this has been proved beyond doubt by the tactics adopted by the Indian captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell and the result is that they have been winning consistently."
"Dravid said the other day a couple of young hands and legs on the field had lifted the teamís performances," the source noted. Ironically, all this is happening when just a few months ago Inzamam was being hailed as a great leader of his players and there was no one who was short of showering praise on him including some former players.
"But this is the ugly face of Pakistan cricket. A couple of defeats can turn a hero into a Ďvillainí very quickly. Unfortunately Inzamam appears to be heading down that path unless he can turn around the teamís performances dramatically on the coming tours to Sri Lanka and England," the source said.