A matter of stats: Is Afridi a ‘pathetic’ captain?

“Shahid Afridi is Pakistan’s worst T20 captain ever,” reads a table doing rounds on social media. Is he really?
Published January 25, 2016

“Shahid Afridi is Pakistan’s worst T20 captain ever,” reads a table circulating on social media.

It has stirred a great debate in the wake of Pakistan's 2-1 loss to New Zealand last week.

Of course stats don't lie and it's hard not to support an argument which is based on numbers. And questions, ‘pathetic’ or not, must be asked. But tables and numbers must be assessed objectively.

In the table on the right, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, and Misbah-ul-Haq can be taken out of the reckoning considering that they have not captained in enough games. Shoaib Malik's record is largely skewed considering 7 out of his 12 wins were in matches against Bangladesh (3), Zimbabwe (1), Scotland (1), Canada (1), and Kenya (1). Mohammad Hafeez was definitely a very good captain; arguably the best T20 captain Pakistan has had.

The ‘Professor’, no doubt, should have continued for longer. His resignation following Pakistan's exit from the 2014 World T20 was one of the most selfless acts we have witnessed in Pakistan cricket.

Sure, Afridi has not been as good a captain. But his figures are not rubbish either. Under his captaincy, Pakistan has won as much as they have lost; alright lost a bit more but just very slightly.

When compared to international captains who have captained in at least 10 T20 Internationals, Afridi's record is better than many including Ricky Ponting, Chris Gayle, and Stuart Broad. It is also not very different from the record of AB de Villiers, George Bailey, Brendon McCullum, and the one and only MS Dhoni.

Before jumping to conclusions like “Afridi is Pakistan's worst T20 captain”, one must also realise that T20s are very different from ODIs and Tests.

While an astute captain with a strong team will win ODIs and Tests frequently, the same is not the case with T20s. The game is so short that a few deliveries change the course of the entire match. That is why one witnesses so many upsets in T20s, as compared to ODIs and Tests. The format is extremely unpredictable and over the longer term majority of the teams have Win:Loss records close to 1:1.

The same is the case with captains who have led their teams in the shortest format for a long time. Because the format has not been around for too long, there are only 21 captains among the 10 Test playing nations who have led in at least 15 T20 Internationals. Many of these captains, including MS Dhoni, Bailey, McCullum, Vettori, AB de Villiers, and Afridi have a win percentage in the 47% - 53% range.

There are less than a handful of captains who have led in more than 25 T20s and have win percentages significantly higher than 50% - Graeme Smith, Paul Collingwood, Mohammad Hafeez, and Darren Sammy.

This clearly indicates that over the longer term, a team and a captain, will have a win:loss ratio in the vicinity of 1:1.

Then why are so many people eager to have Afridi removed as Pakistan's T20 captain before the World T20?

He played an instrumental role in the only World T20 that Pakistan won. He was Man of the Match in the semi-final and the final of that tournament. He also played an instrumental role in the only other World T20 that Pakistan reached the final of. He was the Player of the Tournament then.

Afridi was the captain the only other time Pakistan were close to playing another World T20 final. Unfortunately for the their fans, they ran into Michael Hussey.

He has always been a major force in T20 cricket.

He is the leading wicket taker in the world in T20 Internationals. He has one of the best economy rates among the leading wicket takers in T20s. He has won the most man of the match awards in T20s in the history of the format.

Afridi is a T20 King.

Let us also not forget that it is never wise to change the captain so close to a World Cup. Pakistan did not sack Waqar Younis before the 2003 World Cup despite Pakistan going through a continuous rut in ODIs under him. They did not sack Misbah before the 2015 World Cup even though Pakistan went through their worst ever phase in their ODI history under him.

So yes, Afridi will captain Pakistan at the World T20.

He has already announced that the World T20 will be his last international outing, having already retired from ODIs, Afridi will wave goodbye to international cricket once and for all. He has been polarising figure but his career spanning two decades has been dotted by some truly special performances. The World T20 is his last chance to shine.

Umair Qazi is the founder of wellpitched.com, co-founder of the popular facebook group 'Boys in Green', and he tweets @wellpitched