Friday, January 26, 2007

the splinter of our discontent

In this post, Teeth Maestro refutes my (and to some extent, Omar's) argument that Shoaib Akhtar should play on the Pakistan team based on performance and not personality. His point is that Shoaib’s unruliness and disregard for authority splinters the Pakistan team, generating a lack of discipline and unity.

As usual, I have something to say about this.

First, I agree that a side needs to be, as Mr. Maestro puts it, a “coherent organization”. But one rogue character does not an incoherent organization make. There are far worse things for our team’s collective coherence than Shoaib. Nasim Ashraf is one of these things. His shady dealings with Waqar and the doping scandal, for example, must surely have divided opinion among the players, and can hardly be considered good for team spirit or morale. Why blame Shoaib for the team's lack of discipline as a unit, when the management's divisiveness is so painfully blatant?

Mr. Maestro also argues that Inzi and Woolmer should have all the power to administer the team. I agree, but implicit in his statement is an assumption that without Shoaib’s antics, they would have this power. This is na├»ve. It is a well-known fact that the PCB clings firmly to the reigns of power in Pakistan cricket. Removing Shoaib is not going to change that.

On another note, perhaps there is another side to the Shoaib story that we are not seeing. Why is Shoaib so frustrated as to be perpetually fighting with Woolmer? It seems nobody is sparing a thought for the way the management may have been treating him. Sure, he is aggressive by nature, but at least some of his actions must be provoked. Quiet provocation by Woolmer and/or the PCB may be less obvious to the naked eye, but isn’t it possible there may be something in it that is going unnoticed?

Shoaib is our best bowler, and every effort should be made to accommodate him in every game we play. Does nobody find it at all surprising that this is not happening? That he is, in fact, being discouraged from playing, through a combination of childish he-said-she-saids? These shady reports about how he is "also carrying a knee injury" and is therefore "not guaranteed" to play in the World Cup are suspicious and need to be investigated, instead of just saying: "Well, he was an arrogant prick anyway, so good riddance."

The PCB exists to protect the players’ interests, not undermine them, and certainly not to conduct personal feuds with them. When the latter starts to happen, it is time for us to demand an explanation. We should support our players, rather than the crooks that run their careers into the ground.

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cross-posted at cricket.bloggers.pk

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