Same is the case in Pakistan where a struggling cricketer (Wahab Riaz) — as strange to the team as the stranger in the bar — makes a comeback without doing much, where a talented cricketer (Younis Khan) gets his rightful place without doing much about it, and where a ‘future captaincy material’ (Mohammad Hafeez) is shown the door by the bartender when in fact he shouldn’t have been allowed in, in the first place. Welcome to the world of Pakistani selectors!
There were some positive steps taken by the selection committee which should be discussed first, ahead of the ‘Bad and Ugly’ categories. The masterstroke was the decision of recalling Younis Khan in the ODI squad, although he shouldn’t have been dropped in the first place. He is one cricketer who gives more than his 100% every time he goes out to bat, and since he is in form in Tests, it was logical to include him in the ODI squad where Pakistani middle-order depends more on bowlers, than on batsmen.
The axing of Mohammad Hafeez should also be commended since Test cricket is for serious cricketers, not bits and pieces all-rounders posing as batsmen. Hafeez may be a world-class batsman and bowler in limited overs cricket, but his place in Test cricket was in jeopardy since the start of 2013. He not only became the ‘bunny’ of Dale Steyn but also was the reason why Pakistan failed to have good starts in the most important format of the game. The moment he was dropped, Khurram Manzoor and Ahmed Shehzad posted a century partnership in the Sharjah Test earlier this year, and Pakistan won the match.
As for the axing of Asad Shafiq from the one dayers, well he didn’t seem to avail the chances given to him in the ODI format. He should continue to play Tests and score runs for the country, who knows he might be back donning the colour kit again, like Younis Khan.
No selector in his right mind would opt for left-arm ‘useless’ pacer Rahat Ali over right-arm-genuine-fast Bilawal Bhatti, especially when you have ‘left-armers’ Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz in the squad. No matter how bad he fared in his first two Tests, Bilawal showed control and determination, something missing from the bowling of the lanky Rahat, whose only five-wicket haul against South Africa last year seems to keep him in the squad. If that is the criterion for selection, then Hanif Mohammad shouldn’t have been dropped from the national team since he scored 337 runs against the West Indies, a feat no Pakistani has been able to match yet!
And then there is the one and only Abdur Rehman whose ‘fabulous’ statistics include going for 8 runs without delivering a ball (but three no-balls!). The selectors have preferred Abdur Rehman over Zulfiqar Babar who has been troubling batsmen with his quick action, and bowls legal deliveries (pun intended). I had been a fan of Rehman before he bowled those three deliveries against Bangladesh earlier this year, and keeping him out of the squad might have helped him learn a thing or two about cricket.
One person whose return to the Test squad is only welcomed by his family, himself on Twitter and a handful of fans is Umar Akmal. As former coach Mohsin Khan said, the guy doesn’t have the tameez to represent Pakistan at the Test level. I tend to agree with the former opener because a) Umar doesn’t stand a chance in front of performing youngsters Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq and b) with Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan still scoring runs at will, there was no need for an indiscipline youth like the youngest Akmal to be in the squad. Sohaib Maqsood could have been selected instead since he has more potential, has an attacking style of batting and seems serious while representing the country.
The return of Wahab Riaz is as surprising as the twists in Hollywood blockbusters – based on his recent performances; he wasn’t even expecting a recall himself. It was his inaccurate bowling due to which Pakistan had to keep content with a tied ODI instead of a win in the West Indies; it was his ineptness to take wickets that saw captain Misbah to go to part-timers during a match; and while he should have been kept out of the squad for playing in a disapproved cricket league in America (and getting fined Rs500,000), he has made a return to the national team instead — in both Tests and ODIs.
And the name of the mastermind who came up with the idea of going with four pacers with a combined tally of 31 Tests will never be known, since it bears the approval of the selection committee. Junaid Khan is the lead bowler for Pakistan and he has played 16 Tests for his country. Others — Mohammad Talha (2 Tests), Rahat Ali (6 Tests) and Wahab Riaz (7 Tests) — don’t have the experience to share the new ball with Junaid, although Talha seems the best choice since he is far better than the rest.
One hopes that the series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka sees more heroes from the visiting side than the hosts, but when you don’t select players on merit, the answer is usually not what you are expecting. It remains to be seen whether the squads selected by the Moin Khan-led selection committee would be able to make Pakistan proud, but one thing is certain — the debate it has started will not end on a positive note.