To see how Pakistan and India differ in their vision you have to see the list of the 30 preliminary players both countries selected for the World Cup. India ignored Sehwag and Gambhir while Pakistan picked Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal. Clearly India is looking forward while Pakistan continues to look back.
There is also the balancing act that they PCB wants to carry out in its policy of appeasement that is normally visible whenever Shaharyar Khan is in charge. Please all camps. And if his last statement on selection is anything to go by, and which has been indirectly confirmed by his spokesman when he said that the Chairman has ‘approved’ the touring squad (against New Zealand), it is the PCB chairman who calls the shots in selection matters.
It is in his blood of course. Forty years of bureaucracy where you try and draw a line that is invisible. You can then keep shifting it. With the World Cup comes pressure from all sorts, some good intended and some with unmentionable agendas, to select individuals. This of course is always the best time to please everybody. There is no commitment and hopefully some of those who are making the case for their favourites may have lost clout come mid-January when the final 15 have to be announced.
Otherwise there is no sense in recalling Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal. There was this article in a newspaper that some from the team management are interested in having these johnnies back into the side. I doubt that a bit. In Kamran’s case at least Waqar Younis has been one of the mentors of Sarfraz as has been Moin Khan, perhaps even more and before Waqar. And I doubt Mushtaq Ahmed would be that bothered or have any favourable influence on matters. That leaves Grant Fowler whom I don’t see imposing himself too much this early.
There is the logic that selectors like Ijaz Ahmed may have rooted for the pair. He has been close to them and has been part of team management when one or both have been selected. If allowance has to be given to every selector, then of course the push could have come from there.
I’m sure that PCB will soon come up with the logic that with Hafeez suspended they are looking to Shoaib Malik to fill that function of off spinning all rounder. That would be foolish. Malik has hardly bowled whenever he has represented Pakistan over the past two years and his batting is shaky. Citing experience is now water under the bridge. If anything Malik flopped in the Big Bash this season so it can’t be said his prior or recent experience of playing in Australian conditions will help the team.
Kamran Akmal too is old fodder. He has been brought back under the premise that he can open but failed miserably when actually doing so. He was a devastating batsman in his hey days but we saw as early as April this year in Bangladesh that he struggles to now wear that attribute on him.
In fact I think that the team management should immediately get Sarfraz to open regularly. There are hardly any opportunities left in which to get him acclimatized to the 50-over format; he’s done well in T20 design. He should open all the way through the New Zealand series, what is left of it. I have a feeling that since the suspension of Hafeez’s bowling, which was his only claim to be in the limited over team, the coach and tour selection committee tried to give him the opportunity to get some runs to stake a claim for the World Cup team.
That should never be the strategy. You can’t make a One-day batsman out of him this late in his career. The Pakistan team has already suffered in previous world championships by trying to make a batsman out of an off spinner. Hafeez has his strengths and that is that he can play well against bowling that is not too pacy and where there is no demand for him to play fast. There is going to be no such comfort in Australia and New Zealand.
Also, with Haris Sohail stamping his claim on the all rounder’s position Pakistan should not be too worried on missing out on Hafeez’s bowling. Having said that the left hander has to bowl more often the way he did in the first ODI to cement his place as an all-rounder. Hafeez is a tough act to follow when it comes to bowling. In that department I would also say that spinners like Yasir, Zulfiqar and Raza Hassan should be given a shot at the Kiwis. Pakistan needs as much back up tested as possible in case both Ajmal and Hafeez become unavailable for the World Cup.
Waqar and Misbah also have to shed their strategy of picking men who have the potential to play out the 50 overs. That seems to be most prevalent in their minds for some time. It is weighing down the scoring rate. It’s ridiculous to have Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan and Misbah comprising four of the top six. They are all alike in their temperament and cautious in their approach. Haris Sohail is also no clubber (he once used to be very rash) and was lucky that he found partners in the shape of Sarfraz and (a rare in-form) Afridi.
But at least the selectors and especially the tour selection committee should now realize that they must invest in new faces. The manner in which Haris took the pressure showed that there is talent and that is why I have always rooted for him as I do for most youngsters who come into the side on merit. The policy unfortunately has been to play them in bits and pieces and destroy them mentally by circling them with insecurity. I hope that such thinking is now thrown away. There are many more like Haris waiting for their chance.