A year ago, Aaron Finch led Australia to their maiden T20 World Cup title triumph. Kane Williamson’s New Zealand lost to their Trans-Tasman rivals in the finals, but the Kiwi skipper was lauded by the pundits for his exceptional leadership skills.
South Africa skipper Temba Bavuma, the country’s first-ever full-time black captain, handled the situation of Quinton de Kock, who refused to take a knee, the BLM-inspired posture of protest, with calm and dignity. Bavuma broke away from cricket’s age-old ‘boys played well’ refrains and showed that there is at least a cricketer aware of real issues outside mammoth stadiums.
Babar Azam, the baadshah of Pakistan cricket, who ended Pakistan’s dreadful record against their arch-rivals India in the World Cups. He was tipped to dethrone the king (Virat Kohli) and build his own empire.
The fortune of all four of them has changed in the last one year. Apart from Babar, all three of them can’t buy runs. Within a year, inspirational leaders like Finch, Williamson and Bavuma have become baggage for their respective teams.
The Indian Express looks at what has gone wrong for these captains in the ongoing T20 World Cup.
Aaron Finch (Australia)
Out of form and with his spot in the side in doubt, Aaron Finch announced his retirement from ODI cricket. However, it didn’t help him regain his form. In the last 10 T20Is, he has managed only fifty. After an 89-run thrashing by New Zealand in the tournament opener, when Australia needed some impetus at the top from the skipper, Finch scored a 42-ball 31 against Sri Lanka. If not for Marcus Stoinis, who scored Australia’s fastest T20 fifty off just 17 balls to propel the defending champion to a seven-wicket win, their NRR could have taken a hit.
The legendary Australian captain Allan Border feels Finch should drop himself and the team can do better without him. “I just think that he is really struggling. I think we can do better with Smith at the top of the order or even Cameron Green,” says Border.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Kiwis, the perennial underdogs, are flying high in their neighbour’s backyard. But Kane Williamson, the skipper, is struggling, chewing too many balls up front and is probably the weakest link in the Blackcaps playing XI. In the two games, he has managed scores of 23 and 8 and his strike rate is below 100. Williamson did score a half-century against Pakistan in the T20 tri-series final, but he has looked far from his prime at least in the game’s shortest format.
For a couple of years now, Simon Doull has been saying Williamson should go. “If Kane Williamson doesn’t open in T20, he shouldn’t be playing. His record opening is very good – at three and four, it’s not that great. But he shouldn’t be in the T20 side,” Doull had said.
Temba Bavuma (South Africa)
Let’s start with this stat: Temba Bavuma’s career strike rate is 115.41. He has crossed fifty only once in the 30 T20Is. In the last 10 T20Is, he has crossed thirty-plus only once and has managed only two double digits scores. What is even worse is that Reeza Hendricks, another player of colour, someone who is in red-hot form is warming the bench.
With the batting line-up stacked up with the likes of Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram, Tristan Stubbs and Devid Miller, all scoring runs, Bavuma is undoubtedly letting his team down. Bavuma took the crown full of throwns and has led with example in the sport where there is a history of institutional racial segregation, but now he must look beyond and drop himself and let Hendricks play, who is having a cracker of a year in T20s with an average of 42 and a strike rate of 144.
Babar Azam (Pakistan)
It is unfair to say that Babar Azam’s stocks have collapsed. He is not out of form; he has just failed to score in two games. Unfortunately, both of those came in the World Cup. Two bad games, a couple of poor judgements on the field as a captain and he is drowning under the verbal diarrhoea thrown at him by the former Pakistani legends.
Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have been attacking the Pakistan captain from both ends, calling him a ‘selfish’ player who doesn’t want to make sacrifices for his team. Akram even recalled how once in the PSL, he requested Babar to bat at No 3, but he refused.
“I requested him once or twice nicely, that please come down at number 3, we’ll try something different. Let (Martin) Guptill bat at the top, seeing he is an opener. And he (Babar) said I would not go down. If your captain plays for himself and is insecure, the team will suffer,” Akram said on A Sports show – The Pavilion.
Waqar Younis echoed his former new-ball partners’ opinion. He said: “The difference between being a captain and the leader, well, that’s the difference.”
Maybe, Babar can take inspiration from a certain Virat Kohli, who has roused from the ashes and in Greg Chappell’s words, the only cricketer who can bring art to the chaos that T20 cricket is. Babar can do it too and he must believe in the advice he gave to Virat: “This too shall pass.”