| Younis Khan (left) with Bob Woolmer in Lahore. (AP)
Oct. 5: Darrell Hair must be having a quiet chuckle. The ball-tampering allegation against Inzamam-ul Haq didn’t stick, but set in motion events leading to the biggest controversy within Pakistan cricket since the match-fixing scandal claimed the Salim Maliks.
What’s surprising, of course, is that the otherwise thanda Pathan, Younis Khan, has triggered the latest two days before the Pakistan squad’s arrival in India for the Champions Trophy. He refused to lead in the tournament, saying he didn’t want to be a “dummy captain”.
According to agency reports, the 28-year-old Younis stunned the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) by walking out of a media conference in Lahore, announcing: “I don’t want to be a dummy captain... I will explain the reasons for my decision later.”
Among those left bewildered was coach Bob Woolmer, who was actually by his side.
Younis, who has been the No. 2 from February 2005, was named stand-in captain for the Champions Trophy following the four-match ban on Inzamam, a punishment for forfeiting The Oval Test in August. The PCB brass tried to “reason” with Younis, but he didn’t relent.
Mohammed Yousuf (formerly Yousuf Youhana), the man Younis replaced as vice-captain 20 months ago, is now going to lead in the tournament which is second only to the World Cup in star-billing. It’s to be seen whether the PCB disciplines Younis, who has consistently been backed by the talismanic Imran Khan.
Late in the evening, the PCB issued a statement claiming Younis had expressed “regrets” for his behaviour in a one-on-one with chairman Shaharyar Khan. It added that while the “breach of discipline” would be dealt with in accordance with the rules and regulations, Younis wouldn’t be dropped.
President Pervez Musharraf, incidentally, is the PCB’s chief patron and is unlikely to be amused by the developments in the nerve-centre of Pakistan’s cricket.
Well-placed sources of The Telegraph have listed three reasons for the stand-in captain’s unusual behaviour.
First, Younis’s unhappiness at the prospect of Inzamam joining the squad “during the later stages of the Champions Trophy”. This possibility was made public by manager-designate Talat Ali. Younis, it’s learnt, felt he wouldn’t be able to lead his way if Inzamam was there — albeit, in an unofficial capacity.
Second, dismay over the selectors’ decision to replace Inzamam with Javed Miandad’s nephew, Faisal Iqbal, without seeking his opinion. Iqbal is seen as more of a Test player. In any case, Younis believes a captain should have a say in the composition of the squad. An Imran trait that.
Third, the PCB’s reluctance to “question” Inzamam over the whimsical manner in which he keeps changing the batting order in ODIs. Younis has suffered the most and those close to him have, for many months, been insisting that Inzamam has “developed a complex”.
Apparently, in recent times, Younis has been getting isolated in the Pakistan dressing room for distancing himself from maulvis. “Be it Inzamam or Shahid Afridi or even Yousuf (who converted last year), all have come to be greatly influenced by preachers... Often, they themselves preach... Younis is different and, it seems, that’s one reason why he’s seen by some as the odd man out,” is how a source put it.
Younis and (fellow-Pathan) Afridi, it may be recalled, had a much-publicised scrap in the West Indies last year. Speaking about that incident, some months later, Younis had said: “Every player must be a team man and egos have no place in the dressing room. The country and team are bigger than individuals.”
Somehow, Younis — one of the tallest batsmen of his era — forgot that today.