As widely expected, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) omitted four senior players for the limited-overs leg of the tour of West Indies, preferring to gamble on inexperienced cricketers as it looks to find backup for the under-performing and ageing players.
After extensive deliberations, the selection committee finalised a 16-member squad for the One-Day International (ODI) series and the solitary Twenty20, which saw Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal and Younus Khan being sidelined while fast-bowler Umar Gul was rested for the formats. In addition to the six uncapped players, Test opener Taufeeq Umar was a surprise inclusion in the squad.
Among the fresh faces are batsman Usman Salahuddin, all-rounder Hammad Azam and fast-bowler Junaid Khan, who had all given a good account of themselves at the under-19 level. In addition, wicketkeeper Mohammad Salman and 31-year-old fast-bowler Aizaz Cheema were also picked for the tour.
Dream come true for Cheema
Cheema has 221 wickets in 62 first-class games at a strike-rate of 39.7. Added to these figures is his ability to bowl in excess of 90mph.
“It’s a dream comes true,” Cheema told The Express Tribune. “I’ve been playing domestic cricket for eight years, aiming to be the part of the national side. I’m thankful to the selectors for giving me this chance.”
The selectors rang in the changes after wicket-keeper Akmal continued his poor show while Younus and Razzaq failed to make a mark. However, chief selector Mohsin Khan asserted that the seniors were rested to assess the performance of the younger players.
“The omitted players must understand that they have been rested and will be recalled whenever their services are required,” said Mohsin.
Hopeful for the future
Salahuddin, season’s top run-scorer with 1,197 runs was overjoyed at the opportunity that had come his way.
“Chances like these are very rare and I’m aware of the importance of the break that I’ve been given,” said Salahuddin.
‘We are not afraid of losing’
Meanwhile, Mohsin defended the decision to include inexperienced players in the squad.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of losing otherwise we’ll never be able to win,” he said. “It would be great if, from the new players, we’re able to find at least three players for the future.”
Pakistan start their tour with a warm-up game on April 18 with the Twenty20 taking place on April 21 followed by the five-match ODI series commencing from April 23.
Shahid Afridi (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Taufeeq Umar, Usman Salahuddin, Misbahul Haq, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Tanvir Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Hammad Azam, Aizaz Cheema, Mohammad Salman.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2011.
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