The national selectors’ impatience with new players has made the formation of Pakistan cricket team for the World Cup 2015 a very troubling task. We only have to have a look at the number of players who made their One-day International debut after the 2011 World Cup to realize how inconsistent the selection has been.
No less than 20 players were handed ODI caps in the past four years, but none managed to play even 50 games in these four years although Pakistan played around 70 matches.
Hammad Azam, a promising all-rounder who could have been very useful Down Under, has played only eight games since his debut against West Indies immediately after the previous World Cup. This potential successor to Abdul Razzaq didn’t get enough opportunity to show his talent with bat and ball even in the matches he played. In eight matches, he was asked to bowl only 25 overs.
Azhar Ali made his debut in mid-2011, but he has been given only 14 ODIs so far, despite an impressive average of 41. (In contrast, Asad Shafiq has completed his half century of ODI matches despite his pathetic average of less than 26 runs).
Middle-order batsman Fawad Alam put up brilliant displays of one-day batting in the Asia Cup 2014 and continued his form against Sri Lanka later this year, but was ousted for failing in only two matches against Australia in October. His ability to keep the scoreboard ticking is established and during the Asia Cup he also proved that he can hit sixes when required. Considering all these things, one keeps wondering why Fawad was ignored for the ongoing series against New Zealand.
Let’s move to pace bowlers now. Aizaz Cheema made his debut in late-2011 and was thrown out in less than a year despite taking 23 wickets in 14 matches, which included two four-wicket hauls.
After him, the selectors sent in Rahat Ali, Ehsan Adil, Asad Ali, Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti and Mohammad Talha. Rahat has played only one ODI, Ehsan two, Asad four, Anwar seven, Bilawal eight, and Talha three. Is this how a team is prepared for the World Cup? Can this inconsistent selection be justified?
If these players were not talented enough, they shouldn’t have been inducted in the first place. And if they are talented, two or three of them should have been given sufficient opportunities and groomed for replacing Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz and Muhammad Irfan, who are all injury prone and still remain doubtful for the World Cup.
Similar has been the case of wicketkeeper. Since the previous World Cup, the selectors have tried Muhammad Salman, Adnan Akmal, Umar Akmal, and Sarfraz Ahmad. Besides, they have kept calling back the Great Kamran Akmal who should be considered only as a batsman now.
Salman was forgotten after seven ODIs; Adnan played five; Umar kept wickets for a number of matches but failed to satisfy as had been widely expected; and finally we now have Sarfraz Ahmad who is in the team more for his batting skills than his expertise behind the wickets.
So can anyone say that we have been building a team for the World Cup 2015? No set opening pair, neither a well-established middle-order, nor a charged, ready-to-use pace battery, nor a reliable gloveman.