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TitleGame Changer
File Size2.6 MB
Total Pages175
Table of Contents
1. Taking a Stance
2. In the Beginning, Just War and Cricket
3. School Cricket, Minus the School
4. The Karachi Cricket Cult
5. Dreams, Street Cred and a Brutal Wake-Up Call
6. All the World Is a Stock Market
7. A First, a Trial, Then Another First
8. The Insomniac’s Dream Debut
9. The Quest Begins
10. Pathan vs Hindustan
11. Threats and Treats, Indian and Homegrown
12. Ignominy in England
13. Decline
14. The Comeback King
15. Awkward and Oval
16. The Boy and Bob
17. Skipper, Victim, Soldier, Terror
18. The Strain of Command
19. Captaincy and Chaos
20. Palace Intrigues
21. Trials and Liars
22. Players, Power and Fratricide
23. Batting India Is Battling India
24. Sledging, Tampering and the Unforgettables
25. Visualization, Health and Adaptability
26. Shortchanging Pakistan
27. India 2.0
28. The Dry Talent Pipeline
29. Predictable Unpredictability
30. Temperament, Truth and Leadership
31. The Lost Kingdom
32. Politics Ain’t for Pathans
33. Soldiering on
34. Fun, Fans and Fanatics
35. A Tardy Ending
36. Happiness, Faith and Doubt
37. The Second Innings
38. Naya Pakistan, Purana Lala
Photographic Inserts
About the Book
About the Author
Praise for Shahid Afridi
Document Text Contents
Page 87



OT TOO long ago, there used to be an unwritten policy called ‘Player Power’ used in the
Pakistani dressing room. The senior players were not just experienced cricketers and

expected to lead the team in the field. Their views were also taken into account for policy
decisions. What they recommended, the board largely accepted. They were on the inside, and
their learnings mattered.

This wasn’t always a good approach and personal biases clouded the judgement of senior
players from time to time. Still, it worked well because that’s the way cricket was always played
and the team managed in Pakistan. In fact, Player Power exists as a formal or informal policy in
other cricket boards and teams too. Veteran players have their finger on the pulse of the team
and its capacity, and are always consulted before big steps are taken. They are always looped in
before making major decisions.

But something, somewhere has gone wrong within the PCB. Somewhat recently, the board
decided that it liked the ‘Yes, sir’ type of players, who would go along with whatever the board
wanted. Thus, Player Power, for long the centre of gravity of the national team, ended, and the
system changed. This really damaged our cricket. The seniors, who are the connect between the
board and the players, have no input in the system anymore. This has harmed the efficiency of
the team.

Here’s a case study: In 2010–11, we had a very, very good team that was beginning to gel and
had an excellent understanding of each other. But it didn’t happen overnight. At least, not until
issues between the coach Waqar Younis and me, the captain, had been resolved.

There was a back story to it. Soon after the spot-fixing scandal, there was a rebellion of sorts
within the team against me. I was blamed for getting Butt, Asif and Amir caught. They wanted to
push me to the side. I didn’t relent. I hardened up. I had the full backing of the board and Ijaz
Butt, the chairman. With his support, I started consolidating the team too, and even delivered
wins in the series in the West Indies. But this was a sensitive, critical juncture, and I needed all

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the help I could get. This was when I really needed Waqar to back me up.
Unfortunately, he hadn’t let go of the past. Waqar and I had a history, dating all the way back

to his tiff with Wasim over the captaincy crown. He was a mediocre captain but a terrible coach,
always micromanaging and getting in the way, trying to tell the captain – me – what to do, and
even dealing bilaterally with the players, poisoning their ears. We have different personalities and
different leadership styles too. It was a natural clash and it was bound to happen.

More importantly, I was let down. Teaming up with the manager, Intikhab Alam, Waqar
started lobbying against me. He targeted the board and chairman. Ijaz Butt – who earlier in his
tenure was very supportive of me – also fell victim to Waqar’s propaganda. I was sacked while I
was playing county, having won the West Indies series. Nobody called or consulted me.

I couldn’t believe it. My ‘personality’ – which was to put my foot down when schedules and
training got too gruelling for the guys – was critiqued. I was deemed ‘psychologically unfit’ for
the job. What hurt even more was that none of the guys I had stood up for previously had my
back. Nobody came out to support me. When I decided to challenge the decision in court, I was
all alone. Meanwhile, I was getting angry. Very angry. And it was beginning to show in my public
and media interactions.

The plot was driven by Waqar Younis. Apparently, was the most threatened by my
approach towards the game. As I gained more respect in the squad, Waqar as coach kept losing
ground. But instead of fixing his own approach, he criticized mine and started encouraging the
same old bickering, partisan culture that had split up the dressing room earlier. What he didn’t
realize was that being vulgar, even cheap, with the guys wouldn’t earn him respect. Respect earns
respect, not shooting the breeze and cracking dirty jokes.

I think it’s fair to say that when our rather infamous disagreements started, Waqar – or Wiqi
bhai as we all call him – and I were both at fault. We learnt a lot about each other during that
tense phase, when all sorts of reports, some true and some exaggerated, came out about how we
personally attacked each other with harsh words and tried to get each other fired. At the same
time, we also got to know that some people exploited our tension and enjoyed our altercation. It’s
painful to realize that sometimes the people you stand up for end up stabbing you in the back.
But I won’t take any names. Not here.

Frankly, I’m an emotional man. As captain, my mantra has always been: if my players are
happy, I am happy. I believe that the guys who are treated in a fair manner and are happy off the
field will do well when they’re on the field. If I don’t step up for them out there, they will let
themselves and even the country down when we’re playing in the middle. It was our
disagreement on those tenets that was broadly the root of my problem with Waqar.

My conflict with him started somewhat like this. Without a doubt, Wiqi bhai is a legend of the
game, with a reputation that is well deserved. As a paceman, he was a demigod. As a captain,
somewhat more mortal. But when he was appointed coach, he fell: the guys who listened to me
somehow didn’t seem to listen to him, and vice versa. That was largely the premise of our
conflict. Frankly, it could have been easily resolved through honest and open dialogue, and a
united captain–coach front, had it not been for the various third parties that wanted us to clash.

As a captain, all I expected of Wiqi bhai was to help me and back me up as coach. What I
didn’t want was for him to take me on and confront me. In my view, the coach–captain dynamic
should be about coach plus captain, not coach versus captain. That’s just a personal opinion and I

Page 174


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Page 175

First published in India in 2019 by Harper Sport
An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

A-75, Sector 57, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201301, India

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Copyright © Shahid K. Afridi and Wajahat S. Khan 2019

Front cover and poster photograph copyright © Amean J|18% Grey

P-ISBN: 978-93-5302-671-4
Epub Edition © April 2019 ISBN: 978-93-5302-672-1

The views and opinions expressed in this book are the author’s own and the facts are as reported by him, and the publishers are
not in any way liable for the same.

Shahid K. Afridi and Wajahat S. Khan asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

All rights reserved under The Copyright Act, 1957. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive,
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permission of HarperCollins Publishers India.

Cover design: Saurav Das

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