There was a 15-minute hiccup but Zimbabwe Cricket eventually decided that they wanted to come to Pakistan. Their decision on both counts is understandable. The unfortunate killings at Safoora would have shocked and shaken up any human being as it did us. But whether it was the convincing power of PCB or whether the Zimbabwe cricketers did not want to miss out on the opportunity to play cricket for financial reason the decision announced to cancel the tour was soon overturned to PCB’s delight.
As was pointed out by one sports expert and anchor Zimbabwe Cricket had put in one dollar into the account of the Zimbabwe cricketers when they had once protested on non-payment of match fees. Another journalist has claimed that each Zimbabwe player was paid 350 dollars for the entire duration of the recently concluded World Cup!
The supposed payment of US$10,000 per player for the tour is considered by that journalist to be the main reason for the team to land here. And also the fact that Zimbabwe Cricket will likely earn half a million dollars from the tour.
I would tend to disagree with the entire money motivation. I feel no player would put his life in danger. I just think the Zimbabwe cricketers have come because they believe they will be safe. Yes of course the money is important as it is to the cash rich Australians as well. But no amount offered would make a man risk his life to make money that he may not live to enjoy. So saying that the Zimbabweans are here simply because of the money is not quite on.
The Pakistani Selectors meanwhile, as I had thought, are not going to take them lightly and have gone back to the unproven war horses if you may. As I had feared they have recalled Shoaib Malik but what really made my eyebrows go up was the calling up of Sami after a gap of three years almost. At 34 he may be a very fit bowler but Sami has seen better days and unfortunately not many of them when playing for Pakistan as his bowling averages will show. But I feel that the selectors have decided to go for raw pace to unsettle the lesser endowed Zimbabwe batsmen.
Back to Malik, well there was the fear that he would be picked by the selectors and I had written on the factors last week. But at least the selectors have also picked Hammad Azam in the squad and rewarded Nauman Anwar with inclusion based on his Super8 T20 showing. Imad Wasim is there too following a profitable Sri Lankan sojourn. So they continue to give youngsters chances.
What has been the most interesting selection however has been that of Umar Akmal. While I am glad he is back but can anyone in PCB explain whether he has apologised for disciplinary charge placed against his name after the World Cup because of which he was dropped from all three formats for the Bangladesh trip? If not then again there is no consistency in PCB.
Or is it that that Waqar Younis’ wings are being clipped here? And that Shaharyar Khan and Haroon Rashid are calling the shots? How much will they influence the final XI is not clear. This is a home series so the selectors have more say in the final composition of the playing side. And anyway the fact that Umar will be in the dressing room and practicing under the nose of the coach is reason enough to believe that Waqar’s standpoint on both Shahzad and the younger Akmal has been whittled down.
It will be sad nevertheless not to see Saeed Ajmal at home. He was clearly not the same bowler against Bangladesh but I would have thought that given the occasion and the weakness of the Zimbabwe batting he could have been selected to play if only as a tribute. With the rise of Yasir Shah his days are numbered in international cricket and at least he could have played his last international at home. This would have meant four overs and no impact on Pakistan cricket if we lose because of him.
Yes, there is still the chance to be selected for the ODIs but if the selectors can’t trust him with four overs will they trust him with 10? By the same count I would ask Misbah to come out of retirement and play at least one ODI so they can be given their farewell. Who knows when a team will come to Pakistan to play a Test series? Misbah may have retired by then.
I must also congratulate whoever it was in the PCB who has picked Ahsan Raza to stand as umpire in the matches. The person responsible surely has a sense of occasion. Ahsan it may be recalled was severely injured in the attack on the bus carrying him his colleagues and the Sri Lankan players six years back and had to undergo surgery on a collapsed lung along with a damaged liver. His presence in the middle is certainly a sign that things are returning to normal. It will be also good to see Aleem Dar at home again. One of the best umpires at the international level he is another pride of Pakistan and deserves to stand in front of his home crowd again.