“Your arrows do not carry,” observed the Master, “because they do not reach far enough spiritually.
Eugene Herrigel. Zen and the Art of Archery
The arrow is headed on its course, toward the goal, whether individual, team or corporate.
What type of intent do leaders bring to the direction that our teams go?
In the sporting world the second largest game is cricket after football, it has an incredible reach and power.
One of its biggest players is Pakistan and it is of major significance to South East Asia that the selection of the Pakistan Cricket Captain at this juncture is a sound one.
One that will bring stability and long term success to this politically turbulent country.
Shahid Afridi appointed as Test Captain sends completely the wrong message to the cricket world about Pakistan’s perception of themselves.
What is wrong with Afridi’s appointment?
Shahid has perpetrated some of the stupidest indiscretions of blatant cheating ever to be witnessed on a cricket field.
Here is a man who has pirouetted with his spikes in the middle of the wicket like a russian ballerina in an attempt to damage the playing surface. On another occasson he mistook the ball for an apple and bit it.(Sarcasm intended)
For the uninitiated in cricket and with the art of reverse swing, if you manage to get a small hole in the ball it will swing prodigiously in the air. Hence Mr Afridi’s desire to bite it, however absurd it was.
This is the man chosen to lead one of world cricket’s biggest players !
What does this say ?
Firstly the message that it is okay to cheat and we ( Pakistan Cricket) will overlook it because of our current position … which is that we are desperate for a leader after we shot ourselves in the foot and banned half our own team in a purge of Stalinesque proportions.
Secondly he doesn’t warrant a place in the Test side, as a 20 20 cricketer and ODI player he is fine, a destructive striker of the ball and a fine leg spinner. Not as Captain, though.
The Captain carries a moral compass that he needs to guide the team with, it needs to be based on playing hard, but fair, on leading his players with sound strategy, game plans and compassion.
The national set up needs to take itself seriously and this appointment sends completely the wrong message.
Unfortunately Pakistan cricket reels from one public relations disaster to another. Most recently, after sacking half the team after the performance in the Australia series 2009-10. Allegations of match fixing again … in Australia and previous indiscretions with drug taking.
Never short of headlines or intrigue.
The challenge is to get past the inherent nepotism in the Pakistan system, you need transparency of decision making and it needs to be explicit so that the cricket community can see that things are done fairly and in a logical manner.
Compromised decision making reflects horrendously on Pakistan cricket, it is critical to get ‘first things first’, select a Captain who can play the format, Test Cricket on merit.
It is going to be tough enough as it is in the Asia Cup in England playing with 11 men. Never mind carrying a player who isn’t making it in a specialist position.
One thing I have learnt on my cricketing travels in Asia and Africa is not to look at those countries with a western lens, to project western values onto asian and african cultures is both arrogant and misguided.
To talk of what is right and wrong in behaviour amongst different cultures is thin ice indeed. What is true though and crosses cultural boundaries is fairness, compassion and adhering to the truth, the truth of your culture.
It is no accident that Pakistan’s best cricket was played under Imran Khan and that he captained the side with authority and dignity.
I witnessed first hand the attitude he had towards the players after a Test loss to England in 2001. He came into the dressing at Lords and spoke calmly, authoritatively and with great compassion.
He created a vision for the rest of the tour and reminded the players how great they were, not to get sucked into the miserable feeling of a bad loss to England in cold, wet spring.
We bounced back to level the Test series and lost the Tri-nations final to Australia, after eliminating England.
The respect the players had for Imran was earnt, not demanded.
Now that is leadership.
People often ask me why I haven’t written a book on my time with the Pakistan Cricket team, and the answer quite frankly is that no one would believe it !
Shakespeare would have battled to get the plot structure right such was the intrigue that went on, it became apparent over time that the key issues were factionalism and politics.
I suppose that has been the challenge of all Pakistan Captains, to unite the disparate groups and personalitites within the team.
Afridi like all the others will need to be very careful.
Any Captain who is compromised in their actions and words will be consumed eventually by the lack of fit between what they say and what they do.
The other aspect of leadership is that it needs courage, both moral and physical, regardless of your level of skill, you are going to have to front up at some stage and then the players will watch very closely to see how you handle it.
I don’t see Shahid fitting the bill on either front.
There hasn’t been anything in his past to suggest that he has had a personality overhaul and that he will now grab the torch of leadership and show the way in any of the key aspects of leaderships.
Amidst all the turmoil within Pakistan cricket and the country generally, they produce the most sublime performances.
The victory of Younis Khan’s Team in the ICC 20 20 World Cup, the performance at the previous 20 20 cricket world cup where they lost the final to India.
It’s mind boggling that the players manage to get into their zone and find the depths of performance to play such good cricket, particularly in the big competitions.
So what is the way ahead?
Take a deep breath and appoint Salman Butt as Captain, a Captain for a long term view, who is growing series by series and mandate him with full authority to take the side forward.
Give Waqar Younis a three year contract to take the side through the next World Cup and back him up with excellent support staff … and let him get on with the job.
Fasten your seat belt Waqar, its going to be a bumpy ride.