It’s been a tumultuous week for international cricket captains, past, present and even in-waiting.
Three Pakistan captains have been suspended. The Australian captain in-waiting Michael Clarke, abandoned the New Zealand tour to return home in an attempt to sort out his private life.
Firstly, the Clarke situation. It’s fraught with danger to pass opinion in affairs of the heart. However, from the Australian selectors’ perspective, Clarke’s move, while it was the correct one for his own peace of mind, will have given the panel some reason for concern.
There are a number of factors that go into deciding who should captain an international cricket team. In the case of Australia, stability and continuity are two priorities that are weighty factors. Hence one of the more remarkable statistics in the international game; in 133 years of Test cricket Australia has only appointed 42 captains and at least eight of those were stand-in skippers. It’s a job security record rarely seen in modern times and a testament to the method of choosing a suitable candidate.
There’s no doubt Clarke qualifies for the job on his batting form and tactical nous. Nevertheless, Clarke’s long-term captaincy aspirations already feature a question mark because of a dodgy back. It’s an unfortunate quirk of fate to be born with such a degenerative condition but it’s unwise to add to the selectors’ concerns by having an unstable relationship that generates more publicity than a Hollywood marriage.
Clarke has now moved to rectify this situation and wisely will return to the team for the first Test against New Zealand. Hopefully, he’s now in a state where he can concentrate on his cricket and let the captaincy situation take care of itself.
Over the years players who have craved the Australian captaincy have generally been inferior natural leaders to those who have come upon the job by way of natural progression or unusual circumstances.
Currently, Clarke is the best candidate to inherit the captaincy. In addition, there’s a paucity of long-term candidates waiting in the wings but Clarke’s tumultuous relationship could’ve made the selectors nervous enough to buck tradition and opt for a short-term skipper like Simon Katich or Cameron White.
And on the subject of tumultuous, the Pakistan captaincy would rank alongside the Richard Burton - Elizabeth Taylor relationship.
Prior to the 1991-92 World Cup final I described the eventually successful Pakistan side as a skilled rabble. These days there’s a lot less of the skill and considerably more of the rabble. There’s no doubt Pakistan needed a shake-up. However, it would’ve been preferable if the accountability process also included officials. The lack of transparency in the process and the findings has only added to the impression of a muddle-headed administration going about its business.
The failure to outline reasons for the suspensions and fines will only lead to more conjecture. If the administration had hoped to quell rumours of performance fixing, which shadow the Pakistan team like a faithful hound, then all they’ve succeeded in doing is increase the volume of the baying.
The best thing for Pakistan cricket could well be a clean out. However, this should also include officials otherwise the same erratic play and behavior on the field will continue.
Only one person can run a cricket team successfully and that’s a strong-minded and clear thinking captain. However, behind every successful captain is a stable administration and a supportive family.