WASIM Akram. Sachin Tendlkar. And Brian Lara. Three of the best cricketers in the game today. And three captains who have all given up the mantle of leadeship in the last one month. The common thread is that they were under the magnifying glass due to the fact that the teams they led had been getting a right royal whacking recently.
But there the similarity ends. Each one went because of a different reason. Akram was under pressure due to the results of the match-fixing probe, Tendulkar took the loss in Australia hard (and also felt threatened by the return of Azharuddin) and Lara... well, that is a long story. Let's get to the details.
Wasim is clearly not the cricketer he once was. His bowling seems to lack potency. He seems to be tired. At times, he seems to be going through the motions. That occasional flash of brilliance, seen so often over the years, is absent. And his fuse seems to be getting shorter and shorter -- his lack of patience with his teammates when they screw up is obvious. Were he still able to produce an occasional inspired moment, he would still be able to hold his position. As things stand, he does not merit the position.
And the stepping down has saved him any potential embarrassment that could come were the results of the match-fixing probe to be made public. I personally think that the whole thing will be swept under the carpet. The only people to know the truth will be the man who conducted the probe and the government officials who were given the report. Of course, the cricketers themselves know who is involved but they will keep quiet; there has been enough evidence of what happens to the man who blows the whistle.
Tendulkar has only himself to blame. A man of his talent had no need to play politics. But he has done this right from the time he became captain in 1997. Keeping Sanjay Manjrekar out of the team was his first political deed; the only person who could be a threat to him had to be removed. He never expected to lose the position. When he was sacked, he was obviously piqued. The next time he was offered the position of deputy, he refused. But then, once Azhar's star began to wane (read: the selector from his zone lost his influence or his position) there was no other choice. There was hope among cricket observers that Tendulkar had learnt something from his first stint as captain.
Back as a reluctant bridegroom, he never looked the part. He unnecessarily got involved in politics once again, trying to keep some players out of the team and joining hands with Kapil Dev in this exercise. It is well known that Kapil got the job because he approached it as one would the business of trying to gain public office in India. Azhar's being in the team is something of an affront to him because he campaigned against it. It is merely a way of telling the selectors that he wants his way. After the humiliation in Australia, Tendulkar really holds no cards so he has had to go. I hope he does not try to create problems for Ganguly.
And now to Lara. His is a tale of twisted genius, of a man whose batting talent is not in question but whose ambition is rather crude. He wanted to be captain far too early. He tried to get the position by blackmailing others. He finally got the mantle but had split the team this way and that by then. And no individual can keep playing match-winning innings for too long. The strain brought on by a lack of harmony will tell in the end. It is a pity, because Lara has a good cricketing brain. He lacks maturity, though. He is childish, petulant.
Had he waited patiently, he would have got the reins in time. And there would have been no animosity among his teammates when he was made leader. Unfortunately, he tried to undermine others to serve his own ends, to further his ambition. It has finally worked against him. His batting has suffered. His team has taken even more of a beating. The prince of Trinidad he may be, but a leader of men he is clearly not. He still owes West Indies cricket a lot. He can give plenty back as a batsman if he utilises his talents to the full. But I doubt very much that he will make an effort from now on.