After viewing the selection for the Test squad against the West Indies, one can safely say that the selectors are either not serious in their work or don’t give a damn whether the team wins or loses. Yes, they have included newcomers in the side but what good is a fresh face when the old will stay in the final XI and the new ones will warm the bench?
The biggest surprise in the squad is the recall of Shan Masood and it could be attributed to his very solid backing rather than his solid defence. The opening batsman has neither had an impressive domestic season nor has he been able to rectify his weaknesses, yet there he is in the squad in place of Sami Aslam who didn’t deserve to be dropped in the first place. Sami was part of the series Down Under and was excluded from the final XI in favour of Sharjeel Khan in the final Test, but now that there is no Sharjeel. Sami should have been in the team, considering the fact that not many openers have succeeded on their first visit to Australia.
Azhar Ali will be made to play with a shaky Shan Masood or the overconfident Ahmed Shehzad, who has been selected on the basis of performance in limited overs games. One hopes that Shehzad regains confidence ahead of the Tests, or Pakistan will not have an opening stand to be proud of against the West Indians. This was an ideal opportunity to start on the right note but thanks to the shortsightedness of our selectors, Pakistan now have nothing to offer at the top, except may be a dethroned ODI skipper playing in Tests.
Yes, there is Mohammad Hafeez, too, who has been in and out of the squad so many times that one loses count.
The middle order is Pakistan’s strongest suit against the hosts thanks to Babar Azam at number 3, Younis Khan at number 4, Misbah-ul-Haq at number 5 and Asad Shafiq at number 6, followed by Sarfraz Ahmed at number 7. They have been scoring in Tests for a long time.
Asad’s elevation to one-down position is an option the captain can ponder, if he wants to change the line-up. Recalling prolific scorer in the domestic circuit Usman Salahuddin is a step in the right direction because he can replace anyone of the above mentioned batsmen in the middle-order and use his experience as a visitor to the Caribbean in 2011.
Bowling has always been a cause of concern for Pakistan; even with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis they couldn’t win a series in the West Indies. Therefore, the selection of Wahab Riaz as a fast bowler is something of a concern because he is neither a wicket-taking pacer nor has been in the form of his life.
Besides his performances in the 2011 World Cup and 2015 World Cup, he hasn’t had done anything worth retaining his place in the national side.
Dropping Sohail Khan, Imran Khan and even Rahat Ali and keeping Wahab Riaz in the side is a decision that will prove to be disastrous.
If Ahmed Shehzad can be selected for his limited overs performance, then Wahab can be dropped for it but in Pakistan, if your lobby is strong, so is your place in the side.
Hasan Ali is a good limited overs bowler but bowling in Tests is a different ball game as batsmen are more cautious and have the luxury of waiting for the bad ball. Leading wicket taker in domestic cricket Mohammad Abbas’ selection is a welcome addition to the squad but will he be able to do well where others have failed?
Then there is the selection of two leg-spinners, Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan. Their selection will not only allow both of them to have a healthy competition but will also give the captain an option to go Warne-MacGill against their opponents who have not been comfortable against the leggies since the departure of Brian Lara.
Pakistan haven’t had great success in the West Indies of late; had the selectors used their heads instead of hearts to choose the best squad, Wahab Riaz and Co. might not have found a place in the side. This was the ideal time to select those who deserve to be in the side rather than those who are in the side for no reason.
One can only hope that Misbah’s farewell series has him score loads of runs and give Pakistan those cricketers who can carry his good work forward.