Our cricket team selectors and their mysterious agenda
Selectors for our cricket team seem to have other things on their minds as opposed to form and fitness.
The selection of the cricket team in Pakistan has never been child’s play. In other Test playing nations, teams might be selected solely on the basis such mundane issues as form and fitness, but not for Pakistan.
That is the dull way of doing things. Frankly, what fun is there in seeing a player selected for the number of runs he has scored in the domestic season? It gets saucy when factors like politics, relations with the current captain, and more recently the player’s suspension status, decide the selection doesn’t it?
In such circumstances, it is prudent to expect some surprises from the selectors, sadly though the people at the top always seem to come out with even more bombshells than expected whenever a team is announced.
Let us take the T20 and Test teams (the ODI team is yet to be announced) for Pakistan’s shortly commencing tour of New Zealand, as a case in point. The notable exclusions from the side for the tour are ex-captains Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Malik and beleaguered wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal.
Yousuf is unfit
Mohammad Yousuf’s exclusion, according to chief selector Mohsin Khan, was because the selection committee was concerned about his fitness level. It is true, that the bulk of the batting workload now seems to be taken by youngsters Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, while back to the team and back in form Misbah and Younis are there to provide the needed experience and stability in the middle order, still Yousuf’s worth in the team, especially in conditions like New Zealand’s cannot be and should not be underestimated. It can only be hoped that the selector’s decision to axe the 36-year old master batsman does not come back to haunt them.
Akmal’s questionable exclusion
Equally surprising is the exclusion of Kamran Akmal, from the limited overs team at least. Although he hasn’t been too great behind the stumps in the recent past, he definitely deserves a place in the side even if it is only for his batting, particularly when it is evident that his brother Adnan, who is the new Pakistan wicketkeeper, does not have the batting potential to even try to match Kamran’s feats with the bat. The reason cited for his and Shoaib Malik’s being left out is their non-clearance by the PCB’s integrity committee. While it might be a blessing in disguise for the team in Malik’s case, Kamran’s non-clearance is seriously questionable since he was cleared of match-fixing charges even by the ICC this October.
Coming to the new entrants now, Ahmed Shahzad and Khurram Manzoor are perhaps the most noticeable ones. Shahzad’s is an inclusion few can question, the young Lahore opener showed serious talent in his brief stint with the Pakistan team and is a much better choice as far as ability and technical prowess is considered than Shahzaib Hasan. Khurram Manzoor’s on the other hand is a real surprise insertion, true he recently scored a century for Pakistan A against West Indies A, but that he has some serious technical issues which became all too evident in the testing New Zealand conditions when he last toured the country with Pakistan, is a fact that no one can deny.
Ahmed Shahzad should probably have been given the third opener’s slot instead of Khurram in the test side too. For the moment though Pakistan’s opening department looks in safe hands with Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar at the top, and let us hope that those two can hold fort for Pakistan for the complete tour.
Can bowlers save us?
In the fast bowling section the workload will again have to be divided between Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz (whose selection is subject to fitness), Tanvir Ahmed and whoever is selected in place of ruled out Sohail Tanvir, since Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif are yet to be cleared by the ICC. This is a true tragedy for Pakistan, since the form they showed against Australia and England earlier this year was enough to leave any batsman in the world apprehensive about facing the duo. Spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman have been retained for the tour, it has to be said that even though the two can do a great job in the limited overs forms of the game, whether or not they can effectively do the wicket-taking job in the five-day format remains yet to be seen.
Overall, the team seems to be in good shape and Pakistani fans can definitely look forward to some good encounters when the national team arrives in New Zealand, provided the players play to the full of their their abilities.