One probably wouldn’t blame Younis Khan right now for thinking that his various baffling attempts to distance himself from the Pakistan cricket apparatus have finally been vindicated.
Consider this: you’re Younis Khan. You lead your country to one of its finest international triumphs in recent memory. You follow that up by retiring from one of the most lucrative forms of the game in order to give emerging players a chance to establish themselves. You lead your team to a rare victory over its arch-rivals in a major ICC tournament. However, your team crashes out of the tournament due to internal discord amongst the players, a state of affairs which cannot solely be blamed on you because the discord becomes more visible and rampant after you quit the captaincy. You cite that same inability to control your charges as a reason for stepping down from your position and putting some space between yourself and the team.
Then, you wake up one morning, and you’re told you’ve been banned indefinitely from international cricket. Nice knowing you, yaar. Thanks for the memories.
Let me be clear: it’s not that I don’t agree with Ijaz Butt’s actions. Actually, scratch that. His actions were carried out in a thoroughly outrageous and unreasonable manner. I agree with the rationale behind his actions. If Butt’s motive was to slap some sense into an undisciplined and selfish set of players, I’m all for it. Imran Khan was the first to recognise that our players only respond to tough love and if the PCB wants to use fines and bans as a deterrent, more power to them. However, that said, the penalties meted out were wholly disproportionate, way overdue, and reeking of inconsistency.
Deterrents are well and good, particularly in a culture such as ours which only seems to respond to the stick at the complete ignorance of the carrot, but there needs to be a logical, cogent basis for such deterrents. The PCB has to wake up and start conducting its affairs in a manner befitting a governing body. Just as there is likely to be mass confusion and unrest in a society arising from a poor definition and injudicious application of the codes of conduct, the players within a country’s cricketing architecture need to have a clear view of what is expected of them and what they would have coming to them if they fail to meet such expectations.
The PCB has no consistent yardstick in the application of its codes and penalties. Countless disciplinary misdemeanors only seem to warrant the odd monetary penalty or farcical ban while Younis’s actions (which were never addressed at the time of his captaincy or its relinquishment) necessitated an indefinite purge. Currently, the PCB’s approach to disciplinary action seems to veer between a slap on the wrists to a bullet in the head.
Needless to say, certain measures taken by the PCB have been a long time coming. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf’s conduct has been shameful over the last few months. By engaging in a public mudslinging tit-for-tat, both players have disgraced themselves and the integrity of their team. The bans could probably have been more severe as both are former and current captains and should have been mindful about the trickle-down effects their in-fighting could have with a relatively young team. I’d like to slap Kamran Akmal with a one-year ban just for being so supremely inept behind the stumps, but accusations of match-fixing compounded with earlier charges of instigating player revolts are a good enough excuse as any to penalise him. I love Umar Akmal, but at the age of 18 there is possibly the seed of subversiveness in him which infects his elder brother. Better to attempt to wipe it out now than let it fester and multiply.
And then you have Shahid Afridi. It wasn’t that long ago that he was doing the twist in the middle of an international pitch. However, his case exemplifies the PCB’s inconsistent approach. Surely biting into a cricket ball constitutes a more serious offence than Younis’s supposed indiscretions. And more recently, Afridi threatened to quit the Karachi Dolphins because Mohammad Sami was retained as captain. How unbelievably selfish is that? He knows the entire country unconditionally worships him. He knows he cost himself the Twenty20 captaincy. Yet he is willing to sow discontent into a domestic set-up by arguing seniority rules? Spare us, Boom-Boom.
But what of Younis? What was his crime? A captain is after all supposed to confront those elements in his team he believes to be the source of any discord. There are substantial sources which suggest that Malik, Kamran and Afridi tried to undermine his captaincy. What kind of message does the PCB hope to send out to future captains by banning Younis for the very reason he thought best to distance himself from the team? The next guy in charge would have to think twice before confronting a player undermining him (because that will continue happening in a system as undisciplined as ours), possibly opting for a kind word instead.
Can you imagine being a captain and going up to Shoaib Akhtar and asking him to “pretty please with sugar on top, stop being such a gosh, darn meanie”? You’re living in a dream world if you think the raging egos in our team would respond to anything other than firmness and decisive action. Credit then to Younis, who never aired his dirty laundry in public. Rather than be a part of the problem which was afflicting the team, he removed himself from it, and ended up being penalised for taking the only action he possibly could.
So where does a system with ill-defined standards and erratic regulations leave its inhabitants? I would theorise that it would leave them frustrated, bitter and disillusioned.
How can you serve a system which gives you no guidance or direction regarding what it expects of you? Just as there is within a society, there needs to exist some sort of social contract between the players and the PCB which regulates and harmonises their respective obligations to each other.
Currently, the contract is watery and the players choose to work around it since the enforcement mechanism is so capricious. Younis Khan couldn’t do that. He poured his life into the system. He always put his country ahead of himself, even at the sake of his own career. If he couldn’t succeed within the system, he’d rather not be a part of it. He was, in every sense, a national hero.
And what Butt did to him was tantamount to tearing the emblem off his shirt, spitting on it, and slapping him across the face with it. Walk away, Younis. You deserve much better. Thank you for the memories.
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