ABU DHABI // When the Pakistan Cricket Board shifted the burden of its international team from the lean shoulders of the Australian coach Geoff Lawson to the broader blades of the Intikhab Alam, not many could criticise the selection for taking on such a huge responsibility.
The former coach was given the charge of the captain Shoaib Malik and his boys and his fourth posting as coach but that was not because of his inabilities, but Pakistan was busy trying to search for an international candidate who could handle the temperamental and talented but inconsistent team. Worse, fingers are being appointed at the captain for not being the leader he should be. And Alam gave a glimpse of the real reason why he has been picked immediately after landing in the capital for his first assignment in the hot seat - a three-match one-day international series against West Indies.
"I have spoken to Malik and told him to give all his worries to me and just concentrate on his batting," the former all-rounder, 67, said. Alam is known for his man management skills and understandably, he knows that if Pakistan has to do well, it has to be as a cohesive unit and the bonding process will have to start from the top where players are reportedly not happy with the beleaguered captain.
Even before the team left, Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar reportedly vented out their grievances to Alam and the new manager Yawar Saeed, who is known as a strict disciplanarian, and told the duo that Malik does not show much respect to the senior players. Malik's predecessor, Inzamam-ul-Haq, has also voiced his opinion last week saying Malik was not an "intelligent captain." "That is his [Inzamam's] opinion. My feeling is most problems rise due to a gap in communication and if you don't care for each other and do not interact, then there will be problems even in a family."
"My job is to take the pressure off the captain. And I have told him, 'give all the pressure to me and just go and do your job'. He is young and still learning. Nothing succeeds like successs. If you are winning, no body will say anything. You can get away with murder as long as you are doing well and winning matches." Alam has been credited with holding the 1992 World Cup-winning team together despite big personalities like Imran Khan and Javed Miandad in the team.
His experience and soft image is perfect to understand that ego clashes in the current team can only be handled by discipline. "The message to them is very clear. There has to be discipline. We had a long meeting in the two-day camp before coming here and we told the boys what we want from them and there will be no compromise on that." But Alam admits that this stint would be a tough one from his previous ones considering that Pakistan has not played much cricket this year.
"Yes, we have not played much but that cannot be an excuse. This the most challenging of all times. The boys are young and lacking play. "In fact, we should be happy playing here [in Abu Dhabi] and get on with the game and start making winning a habit." "Whenever I have taken charge, Pakistan has been in a crisis. This time it is too, but I have accepted the challenge." That can be easier said than done but Alam's dictionary has not scope for negative thoughts.
"The universal fact of the matter is you do not win because of coaches. It is the players and whom I have to take together. "Any player can have a bad time but an hour in the nets is enough for them to sort it out. "But when you have things on you mind, you cannot perform. My job is to get the maximum of their potential and take them together and give them confidence." And Alam has used a contemporary example - the American president-elect Barack Obama - as his first installment of motivation speech as Pakistan try to get leave its problems behind.
"I told them [the team members] that here is an example of an African origin president who has reached great heights only on the basis of his focus and determination. He is the man of the century to me and we should follow his lead." Time will tell if Alam has got it right with his inspiring words for the fourth time as well. email@example.com