Cricket may be a funny game; but the way things work in Pakistan the cricket team is even funnier. Players with limited Test experience become selectors and players with vast experience (and match winning performances) are not considered for selection. Those who were ‘lucky’ enough to play in a Test match, when they become selectors, they deprive those who are worthy of playing regularly at the top level.
This is not the first time that players with little Test experience have been asked to decide the fate of those with more experience. Former Test cricketer Salahuddin Ahmed has been a selector for record dozen times but in his playing days, he was neglected by his selectors and only managed to play in five Tests. He has been active on the cricket scene and whenever a crisis is to be averted, he is the go-to guy; or that was what he used to be.
Now the go-to guy in Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is former captain Moin Khan who at the moment can be termed as the Superman of Pakistan cricket. He is not only the chief selector and the manager of a cricket team that is free till late July, but also the member of the coach committee that will select his successor as he was the last head coach of Team Pakistan. His flight was however thwarted by his boss Najam Sethi, who stepped in to quash the rumours regarding the removal of Misbah-ul-Haq ahead of the next World Cup. Well sir, this is what happens when you trust someone blindly and you should have known that.
Anyway, Moin Khan’s most important task is to select the best possible players for Pakistan’s tour of Sri Lanka which will be followed by matches against New Zealand, Australia and then the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. He has been given a six-member committee to select the best XI but his own team features a handful of players who weren’t selected themselves when they were playing.
Now they are the ones deciding the fate of players who might be better, stronger and more deserving than they ever were. The first person who doesn’t deserve a place here is Mohammad Akram, the former bowling coach who should have been axed after Pakistani bowlers were thrashed all around during the Asia Cup and World T20. But since he had a two-year contract, he was relegated to ‘selectorial’ duties as well as coaching players in the National Cricket Academy. For a bowler who hardly featured in back-to-back matches for Pakistan, this is too much backing, isn’t it?
Then we have Wajahatullah Wasti whose own career lasted six Tests where he scored 329 runs with the help of two centuries — both scored in one match. His 349 runs in 15 ODIs include the half century that enabled Pakistan reach the final of the World Cup in 1999. Had he played more matches, who knows he might have stayed around, but the selectors didn’t favour him during his playing days.
Veteran wicket-keepers Moin Khan and Saleem Yousuf played 101 Tests between them — Moin 69, Saleem 32 — and have nearly 400 dismissals to their credit. What is interesting here is that Moin was the one who replaced Yousuf in 1990, and later played hide and seek for the wicket-keeper’s position with Rashid Latif, who refused to become chief selector in early April. It seems Moin Khan had the last laugh as he won the match by bagging the chief selector’s position as well as the job of the manager.
And then there is Shoaib Mohammad and Ijaz Ahmed, both cricketers who had served their country for many years as batsmen and excellent fielders. Shoaib was one of the best opening batsmen Pakistan had produced and had selectors been good to him, he would have played more than the 45 Tests (and 63 ODIs) and scored more than the 2705 Test runs (and 1269 ODI runs) to his credit. Ijaz was never a permanent member of the Pakistan side — except for the time when either his brother-in-law Saleem Malik was the skipper or during the 1996-2000 period, when he was scoring runs at will but in the last matches of the series. He was never a dependable bat but when he was on fire, he was unstoppable. He scored six out of his 12 Test centuries against Australia (including 3 Down Under) but was axed unceremoniously after 60 Tests for 3315 runs and 250 ODIs for 6564 runs.
They say that junior cricketers are the future of any cricket team but in Pakistan, we don’t value them as important. Otherwise why would Ali Zia (No international match, just 165 first-class matches) who is known more for his coaching skills; Ali Naqvi known for his century on debut; Farrukh Zaman known for his family ties with Imran Khan and Basit Ali known for copying the Javed Miandad style be asked to select the junior cricket team. Ali Zia has coached most of them so he is not that bad a choice but why Farrukh Zaman, who was part of the senior selection panel just a month back and has done nothing worthy during or after his one-Test career.
Same is the case with Ali Naqvi who managed to score a century on debut in 1997 against South Africa and was tipped for bigger things before he fizzled out after just 5 Tests and 242 runs. Their leader Basit Ali is one of those batsmen who could have been a contender and his 585 runs in 19 Tests and 1265 runs in 50 ODIs (including one of the fastest centuries of his times) don’t do justice to his immense talent. One hopes that he manages to actually do some good by selecting the right cricketers but when the team isn’t worth it, it’s not worth waiting.
Yes, nearly all of Pakistan was happy at the axing of Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal from the probable list, named for the conditioning camp in Lahore. But then, injury to a couple of players will see the two back in the side, such is the way of Pakistan cricket. One shouldn’t be hopeful that the selectors would do magic and turn up a team that can go on and win laurels, just pray that we get a captain who manages to make men out of boys, and defeat the world, Imran Khan’s way!