I had written a couple of weeks back that the selectors had shown some focus in picking the team and concentrated on specialists. I had also been somewhat disappointed that both Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali had missed the bus to the World Cup. But the selectors’ decision to pick Bilawal for replacing Junaid Khan is confusing considering that Junaid is a strike bowler which is a vital cog in the plan against strong batting sides we will face in the World Cup. Shouldn’t he have been substituted by another strike bowler?
If an all-rounder was considered important then why wasn’t Bilawal originally selected ahead of someone like Ehsan Adil who is more or less the same sort but has lesser batting qualities? And I think Anwar Ali is slightly faster than Bilawal with a height that can get more impact out of Australian pitches. Bilawal has been given the challenge that he will continue for the World Cup only if he performs in two ODIs and two warm up games in New Zealand and only if Junaid does not return. But what if Junaid remains unfit and Bhatti disappoints in his four outings? Will Pakistan fly out another bowler or all-rounder?
If it’s Zulfiqar Babar or Fawad Alam do not be surprised. It’ll probably be Misbah’s call as it is cited to be in Bilawal’s case. But I wonder whose call it will become if Misbah himself is ruled out and both Junaid and Bilawal have to be substituted in the scenario I’ve drawn out above.
Eerily we seem to be in the same sort of situation that we were in 1992 when there was gross uncertainty regarding players’ fitness. The similarities have been floating around on social media over the past few days. Waqar Younis was proved unfit at the last minute and had to pull out. He was then one of the two opening bowlers; the other was Wasim Akram. Now Junaid Khan seems to be the opening bowler who may not play due to injury. Mohammad Irfan, another opening bowler, is a left hander as was the case in 1992.
In that World Cup Imran Khan the captain was in doubt as he was carrying an injury but was still named captain. The same has been the case with Misbahul Haq. Interestingly both hail originally from Mianwali and both carry the less quoted surname ‘Niazi’.
Those who have come up with the similarities also point to the fact that the key middle-order batsman was from Karachi in the shape of Javed Miandad and this time it’s Younus Khan, also from the port city.
There are some other similarities which I think are a bit forced, like the rebellious, aggressive opener being from Lahore (Aamer Sohail and Ahmed Shahzad); there being the ‘surprise’ all rounder in the shape of Haris Sohail as was the case with Ijaz Ahmed; there being an ‘ul Haq’ in the middle order (Inzamam and Misbah) and there being under-the-radar Sohaib Maqsood as was Inzamam-ul Haq then. Besides both are from Multan. But what is curiously amusing is that the wicketkeeper then, Moin Khan, was from Karachi. This time it is Sarfraz Ahmed, also from Karachi. Moin loved to sweep and so does Sarfraz. That for me is really one that stands out. Like Sarfraz, Moin Khan then was not in the frame at all till a few months before the World Cup.
In Afridi and Yasir, we have two leg spinners, like we had in 1992 when we had Mushtaq Ahmed and Iqbal Sikander.
On another count, Shaharyar Khan has done a priceless maneuver by leaving it up to the tour selection committee to pick a substitute if Misbah cannot play.
It’s clear he has shied away from the responsibility. He can’t delegate something as crucial as this when it has been the prerogative of the Chairman PCB for decades. I believe one of two things must have happened. Either the clear choice was Shahid Afridi whom Shaharyar Khan cannot imagine appointing himself after the way Afridi has stepped on his toes over the past few weeks. Or it would be Younis Khan, another who clearly ‘gave it’ to the chairman after he was dropped from the ODIs against Australia.
So he absolves himself of all responsibility as these are the only two names that come to mind to replace Misbah if the need arises. Cowardly of the Chairman I must say. He is in a leadership position and must make the hard calls and be responsible for it.
There has been another announcement that PCB has made which I feel is the right one and that is that wives of the players will not be allowed to accompany them during the World Cup. Some feel it is an unnecessary restriction in today’s world but I feel the PCB has taken the right step. You don’t have your wives accompanying you on office tours and cricket today is a profession. But then the chairman himself must ensure that wives of all accompanying officials should also be debarred from accompanying them. The reason is that they too are being paid to perform professionally and just like it is for the players, presence of spouses can distract them from their job; or lead to their even temporary unavailability when the players need them.
If it is seen that the wives of these officials have accompanied them then obviously action should be taken against them. The only question will be as to who will do that? If the Chairman can delegate to the tour selection committee something as crucial as naming the captain and doesn’t himself name the vice captain, can he be brave and bold enough to pass such a circular?