Deep Backward Point

Blog against the machine.

Tag: postaweek2011

The Curse of the Pakistani Cricket Captain

Imran Khan & Javed Miandad

Let’s first get this out-of-the-way– in my opinion, Pakistan has been the most entertaining cricket team of my lifetime.

Ok. On to business.

Bumbai mei khelte hain, Imran se darte hain

As with all good filmi melodrama, this story begins with a Khan.

In 1987, after the World Cup, two subcontinental heroes retired from cricket– Sunil Gavaskar and Imran Khan.

Sunny ascended to the commentary box. Imran got a call from the General– Imran Khan returned to cricket in 1988 at Zia ul-Haq’s behest.

(Note: Zia is the first, but by no means the last ul-Haq in our tale.)

At the age of 39, Imran Khan led his scrappy team to their first World Cup victory and promptly retired. Again.

Musical Chairs

And Pakistan cricket was never the same again. Over the next three years, Javed Miandad, Saleem Malik, Rameez Raja, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Moin Khan and Saeed Anwar had all been One Day International (ODI) captains. What’s worse, they all had to coexist on the same team. In the mid 90’s, Pakistan was a team full of former captains.

Here is the list of all Pakistan ODI captains since Imran (criteria: captained > 5 ODIs):

  1. Javed Miandad (’92-’93)
  2. Saleem Malik (’92-’95)
  3. Rameez Raja (’92-’97)
  4. Wasim Akram (’93-’00)
  5. Waqar Younis (’93-’03)
  6. Moin Khan (’95-’01)
  7. Saeed Anwar (’95-’00)
  8. Aamer Sohail (’96-’98)
  9. Rashid Latif (’98-’03)
  10. Inzamam-ul-Haq (’02-’07)
  11. Mohammad Yusuf (’03-’10)
  12. Younis Khan (’05-’09)
  13. Shoaib Malik (’07-’09)
  14. Shahid Afridi (’09-’11)

That’s fourteen captains in nineteen years. To contrast, Pakistan had played ODIs for nineteen years before Imran retired. In those years (’73-92), they only had ten captains— and only four that captained more than 5 matches, which has been our criteria so far. Four captains for the first nineteen years, fourteen for the next.

Compare with the rest of the teams in the same (’92-’11) period:

  • Australia: 8
  • India: 7
  • South Africa: 6
  • England: 11
  • New Zealand: 9
  • West Indies: 9
  • Sri Lanka: 6
  • Zimbabwe: 10

England comes close, mostly due to their post-Vaughan, pre-Strauss dithering.

And we haven’t even started to talk about Test cricket yet.

Except for short periods of stability, Pakistan has always had a captaincy crisis. The problem is even worse in Test cricket, where captaincy is generally a long-term anointment. Even in the long form of the game, Pakistan has had fourteen captains since Imran, while England has had seven, NZ and Australia five, Sri Lanka and India six. [Criteria for test captains is more than three tests as captain.]

And now, the Pakistan Cricket Board has announced a team, but no captain for the World Cup next month. Will it be Shahid Afridi? Or the third ul-Haq of our tale– the plucky Misbah? Perhaps, the PCB will decide they need a break from captains. Who could blame them?


Welcome to Deep Backward Point

Welcome to my blog about cricket.

Who am I?

As a kid growing up in Chicago, my first experience with cricket was when my father and his friends would get together to play on Sundays. There would be elaborate suiting-up and a little play, and then we’d all go out for Indian food.

That was before Gavaskar came to town. The first cricket match I ever saw was an exhibition match between the visiting Indian team and a local team outside Chicago in the early ’80s. My father instilled in me a sense of awe about Gavaskar. We got to meet him. Within 24 hours I had gone from never hearing his name to having discovered a new hero.

Me "playing" cricket

Me "playing" cricket

And then we moved to India. And cricket became my first love. This was the era of Gavaskar’s wide-brimmed hat, Vengsarkar at Lords, mustache-chewing Kris, and India coming off a World Cup winning high.

And then? Then came Tendulkar, after which it was a short 20-year hop, skip and a jump to becoming the best Indian team in history.

In the mean time, I moved back to the United States. I now live in Boston, getting my cricket fix through or living vicariously through Cricinfo.

Yes, but that doesn’t tell me if I’ll like your blog

Ok. Here are my cricket quirks:

  • Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. That’s all.
  • Test cricket is better than Twenty20.
  • Twenty20 is better than One Day cricket.
  • Cricket was my first mathematics teacher: keeping a running count of the required run-rate was enough to get me through about 8th grade.
  • Which brings me to statistics. I love cricket statistics.
  • I read old scorecards and player statistics as if they were great works of fiction. I love how a scorecard tells a story, how I can picture what happened. There’s no footage of Kapil at Turnbridge Wells, but anyone who has seen that scorecard can see that innings in their mind’s eye.
  • I watched every match played at Vadodara (Moti bagh and IPCL stadiums) in the time I lived there. India won every time. Except when New Zealand played The Netherlands.

What will I blog about?

My hope is to give context on players, teams and quirks of history through statistics and historical perspective. I’m not an expert player or analyst. What I am is tenacious.

I will be posting long-form on this blog about once a week. During the week, I will add pointers to interesting things I find around the web.

If you read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes along the way.

OK, why is it called Deep Backward Point?
Because when I have a point, it’s fairly deep and mostly backwards.