Pakistan cricket’s elephant in the room

Inzamam traveled to England to be with the team and has been playing a key role in decision-making ever since his arrival. Photo: AFP

MANCHESTER: In Taunton, the one man at the forefront of Pakistan’s pre-game preparations ahead of the World Cup clash against Australia wasn’t even wearing the team’s traditional green kit.

In Manchester, too, the same man would be seen in animated discussions with the coach, captain and players before the crunch game against India. He is seen everywhere. One minute he is there in the indoor nets area imparting his expert advice and the next he is out in the field inspecting the Old Trafford wicket.

Clad in his traditional shalwar kameez, Inzamam has almost always been around whenever Pakistan came out to train or to take a look at the wicket before any of their World Cup games.

And he has been making his presence felt.

My sources tell me that Inzamam has been throwing his weight around as chief selector before and during Pakistan’s miserable World Cup campaign.

At a time when fans and critics continue to tear apart the captaincy of Sarfraz Ahmed, reject the coaching skills of Mickey Arthur and rip apart players’ performance in the wake of a humiliating defeat against India, I might suggest that they start aiming at the elephant in the room.

Yes, I’m talking about Inzamam.

I’m not saying that Sarfraz, Arthur or players like Shoaib Malik and Hasan Ali aren’t responsible. They have done their share of damage to Pakistan’s cause but maybe a much lesser damage than Inzamam.

As chief selector, he is the man responsible for picking the likes of Malik, one of the biggest flops of this World Cup.

If things had stayed till that, one would have lived with it. After all chief selectors and the selection committees do make mistakes.

But Inzamam has been insistent that he would continue to call the shots. He traveled to England to be with the team and has been playing a key role in decision-making ever since his arrival. The fact that both Sarfraz and Arthur aren’t strong characters have helped Inzamam take control.

The situation isn’t much different from the past when Inzamam was Pakistan’s captain in 2006-7. According to a former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official, who occupied a key position during that time, Inzamam had assumed near complete control of the decision-making concerning the national team.

“Inzamam is a very dominating kind of a man. He is autocratic and has severe likes and dislikes,” the official, who requested anonymity, told ‘The News’ following Pakistan’s 89-run defeat against India at Old Trafford on Sunday.

“He used to totally dominate the then chairman of the Board, Shaharyar Khan. He used to call the shots. It seems that history is repeating itself now.” He added.

It probably is.

According to my sources in the Pakistan team, most of the players are unhappy with the sort of influence Inzamam yields when it comes to important calls like finalizing the playing eleven for a particular game.

“Inzamam likes to throw his weight around. The worst part is that both Arthur and Sarfraz have almost caved in,” said a source.

Inzamam is certainly the sort of character who would act in such an autocratic manner. He was the team’s captain back in 2008 when Pakistan became the first country in Test history to forfeit a match. It’s an open secret that he was chiefly responsible for the fiasco. He was at the helm of Pakistan’s worst-ever World Cup campaign, when the team crashed at the first hurdle following a stunning defeat against minnows Ireland back in 2007.

Now, he is at the forefront of another disappointing World Cup campaign by Pakistan. He shouldn’t have been allowed to play such a role by the PCB.

There is certainly disharmony in the Pakistan dressing room and one of the key reasons behind it is Inzamam’s presence. The team manager, Talat Ali Malik, who is a former Pakistan cricketer, doesn’t even talk to Inzamam. There are several other players, who would prefer if the chief selector would just leave the team on its own and perhaps head for home.

Now facing a much-win situation in their remaining four World Cup games, Pakistan could be better off if they are spared Inzamam’s presence. Whether that happened remains to be seen.