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The strange case of team selection

In Pakistan cricket decisions depend on the mood of the selectors who have their way every time a squad is selected

The strange case of team selection
Mickey Arthur (centre).

Pakistan cricket is a strange entity — here decisions depend on the mood of the selectors who have their way every time a squad is selected.

Umar Akmal, considered one of the brightest of talents till yesterday, was dropped from the squad because of fitness issues while fellow mis-fit Sohail Tanvir wasn’t; Mohammad Rizwan who kept wickets in the last series (in the absence of Sarfraz Ahmed) was excluded for Kamran Akmal whose wicket-keeping remains dicey, even if batting is much, much superior.

The always-in-trouble Ahmed Shehzad makes a comeback to the national side for his performance in Pakistan Super League, yet the best bowler of the event Sohail Khan makes way for others. Strange, isn’t it?

It’s a good thing that Pakistani selectors are opting for newcomers but at 33 years, Asif Zakir is hardly considered young blood. They should have selected him a few years earlier and their failure to do so cost both him and Pakistan. He reminds me of Misbah-ul-Haq who couldn’t cement his place in the national side during Inzamam-ul-Haq’s tenure as captain and was only recalled after his retirement.

Similarly, not selecting Karachi Kings’ Usama Mir and many other deserving players from different teams was an oversight as some of them have potential to do well.

Then there was the strange case of Azhar Ali who was till last tour considered the best person to lead the side even when injured, yet he was unceremoniously axed as if he wasn’t worthy of a place in the ODI squad.

The Chairman of Selectors might say that he is still in their plans but the fact remains that his place was always in jeopardy, ever since he was made the captain two years back. Why wasn’t he axed before, when the team was losing matches continuously, when former cricketers were calling for his ouster and making Sarfraz the captain, something that has finally happened.

Not all decisions in this selection are bad, however — the fact that Yasir Shah was dropped and a better limited overs bowler Shadab Khan was preferred shows that there are some people in the selection committee who still use their heads.

But then, the team is going to West Indies with left arm bowlers — both fast and spin — with only Hassan Ali and Mohammad Hafeez giving the captain a right-arm option.

Even Shadab bowls leg spin that is off-spin to lefties, and on the leg side for the right-handers. The only consolation is the axing of Rahat Ali and the recall of young guns Rumman Raees and Usman Shinwari who seem to bowl with a plan, unlike the lanky pacer who was useless in difficult situations.

While resting Mohammad Amir was a good decision, considering the workload he has been carrying since his return, the decision to retain senior all-rounders Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik doesn’t go down well. One of them should be in the side and the latter is a better prospect as he takes wickets and scores runs, unlike Hafeez who didn’t impress much in Australia (as a bowler) and runs out everyone he bats with. If one looks at their PSL performances, they don’t deserve a place in the side, yet here they are in place of youngsters who might have learnt a thing or two on the Caribbean tour.

Looking back to the past is the only thing that has been keeping Pakistan from becoming a Great Cricketing Nation. When India can drop their senior most World Cup winners for the future, why can’t we? Pakistan Super League has given the selectors a lot of players that can represent Pakistan and they should go for them, rather than the tried and tested ones who shame the nation when the going gets tough. It’s now or never if you ask me because this tour will either make the team or break it.

Omair Alavi

omair alavi
The author is a freelance journalist. He may be contacted at o[email protected]

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