KARACHI: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has all but decided not to consider the credentials of Ahmed Shehzad for the national twenty20 captaincy — a slot that has remained vacant since Mohammad Hafeez resigned the post last April.
According to well-placed sources in the PCB, in-form batsman Fawad Alam has unexpectedly emerged as the front-runner to replace Hafeez, who quit the post following Pakistan’s failure to reach the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh five months ago.
The 22-year-old Ahmed, who scored Pakistan’s first-ever T20 hundred in the same tournament against Bangladesh in the pool fixture at Dhaka, was tipped by many to be Hafeez’s successor but disciplinary issues involving the temperamental opener have dented his case.
Controversial Ahmed Shehzad unlikely to get the job
On Friday, PCB chairman Shaharyar Mohammad Khan told a media conference in Karachi that Ahmed could face disciplinary action for an off-the-cuff religious remark made at former Sri Lankan skipper and veteran opener Tillakaratne Dilshan during the final One-day International in Dambulla on Aug 30.
After Sri Lanka had sealed a series-winning seven-wicket victory, Ahmed was spotted on TV as saying to Dilshan: “If you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven.”
Dilshan, who was coming off after scoring an unbeaten 50, didn’t pay any attention to what the Pakistan fielder had uttered and even said that he had no issues at all. But in the next moment, Ahmed retorted: “Then be ready for the fire.”
After the footage went viral on the Internet, the PCB was prompted to look into the matter through a committee, headed by board’s director of international cricket Zakir Khan, although Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and Dilshan had not yet made an official complaint.
But Shaharyar, a former diplomat and ex-foreign secretary, said Ahmed has violated the players’ central contract. “He [Ahmed] has breached the central contract in which it is clearly written that you will not get involved in any religious spat.
Contract terms clearly state that no religious comments or remarks can be made on the field in any circumstances,” the PCB chief said. “Such things will just not be tolerated by the PCB. The committee is investigating and will submit a report soon.”
It may be recalled that the same two players were also embroiled in an altercation during the third game of the five-match ODI series in Sharjah last December. Ahmed was subsequently fined 50 percent of his match fee after he was seen exchanging words while grabbing Dilshan’s bat and shoving him on the shoulder when Sri Lanka were batting.
The sources said that Ahmed’s misconduct has severely jeopardised his aspirations for the captaincy and the board has in principle opted not to give him the responsibilities for next month’s one-off Twenty20 International against Australia.
“Although there is no official word from Sri Lanka Cricket on the spat, the PCB doesn’t want someone as controversial as Ahmed to be entrusted with the captaincy of the national team. Since he [Ahmed] has violated the central contract’s code of conduct, the board is not keen on having him as the [T20] captain now,” sources told Dawn on Saturday.
On the other hand, Shaharyar praised Fawad’s resilience and fighting qualities during his media conference at the National Stadium on Friday. “Some players who may not be that talented or God-gifted are still able to tackle the crisis. This is why I rate Fawad Alam very highly as a fighting cricketer,” the chairman had remarked. “There is no shortage of courage and fighting spirit in Fawad who has repeatedly done wonderfully in pressure situations since his comeback.”
Remarkably, the 28-year-old Fawad — who was sidelined for more than three years until he returned with a bang during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh last March — has not been part of the national T20 squad since December 2010 when he played the last of his 24 Internationals against New Zealand at Auckland.
Sources, however, claim that Fawad has the ideal temperament to lead Pakistan in Twenty20 Internationals despite not playing in that format for more than 45 months at international level. “Given his nature as a real fighter, Fawad would do a good job if offered the opportunity to captain Pakistan in the shortest format. Everyone speaks highly of his abilities as a cricketer who has been in great touch since re-emerging on the international scene,” the sources pointed out.
Since his latest comeback, Fawad has scored 318 runs in five ODIs at an average of 79.50 and hit his maiden century — an undefeated 114 in the final won by Sri Lanka.
If Fawad is named as the Pakistan T20 skipper, he would be the seventh player to lead the country after Inzamam-ul-Haq (1 match in 2006), Younis Khan (8 matches between 2007 and 2009), Shoaib Malik (17 games between 2007 and 2010), Misbah-ul-Haq (8 matches between 2009 and 2012), Shahid Afridi (19 matches between 2009 and 2011) and Hafeez (29 matches between 2012 and 2014).
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2014