In response to criticism over team selection for the Zimbabwe series, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chief Selector Mohsin Khan said that the country required a strong back-up of players and the selection committee had to therefore take a gamble.
The selectors dropped pace spearheads Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz while spinner Abdur Rehman was also left out. All-rounder Sohail Tanvir, and fast-bowlers Aizaz Cheema and Sohail Khan were included in their place for the tour, comprising a one-off Test, three One-Day Internationals (ODI) and two Twenty20s.
However, the selectors’ choices drew criticism from various quarters including former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram who was shocked over the exclusion of Riaz. Former chief selector Iqbal Qasim said that the gamble may prove costly against Zimbabwe, who beat Bangladesh in their comeback Test.
‘Selectors needed to take risk’
Mohsin, while agreeing that selectors have taken a risk, felt it was the need of the hour.
“Pakistan requires a pace backup immediately,” Mohsin told The Express Tribune. “We needed to take a few risks and I haven’t hesitated to gamble in the interest of the sport in Pakistan.”
Pakistan lost two of their main fast-bowlers – Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – last year over their role in the spot-fixing scandal following which the burden fell on Gul and Riaz to carry the team. Considering their importance, the chief selector said that saving them from injury was another reason for leaving the duo behind.
“We’ve to play important series against Sri Lanka and England after the Zimbabwe tour and we cannot afford to lose our main fast-bowlers especially when we lack quality pacemen.”
‘Zimbabwe not an easy opponent’
Mohsin, however, cautioned the team over taking Zimbabwe lightly.
“I’ve repeatedly said that no side is easy. That’s why we have not made big changes to our batting line-up. But a platform was needed to test the youngsters while looking ahead to the future,” added the chief selector.
“Zimbabwe played well against Bangladesh but I’m hopeful our three bowlers along with Junaid Khan will come good against them.”
The former batsman also ruled out chances of late changes to the squad.
“Apart from injuries, we’re not going to make any changes.”
“I don’t mind taking Zimbabwe lightly and giving chances to youngsters. But it is surprising that you rest Riaz who has just started his career a year ago. The idea to groom a young paceman is to give him more and more opportunities and not to rest him.”
“Pakistan requires a pace backup immediately. We needed to take a few risks and I’ve never hesitated to gamble in the interest of the team. We’ve to play important series after the Zimbabwe tour and we cannot afford to lose our main fast-bowlers.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.