KARACHI: The omnipresent confusion in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) rose to new heights yesterday as, barely 24 hours after including Mohammad Irfan in the 15-man squad for the World Twenty20, the board decided to omit the tall fast-bowler and include left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman in his place.
Irfan, who is reportedly seven feet tall, has only played ten first-class matches and three Twenty20s but was surprisingly ‘selected’ by chief selector Mohsin Khan, coach Waqar Younis and captain Shahid Afridi following injuries to Umer Gul and Yasir Arafat. The PCB media spokesperson Nadeem Sarwar was also present at the occasion but later produced a press release saying Irfan’s inclusion was not confirmed since the decision was not authorised by the chairman.
Rehman’s inclusion means Pakistan will now go into the tournament with four spinners - Saeed Ajmal, Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez and Rehman. Another member of the squad, Fawad Alam, too, bowls left-arm spin and Rehman’s inclusion – over-ruling the team management’s request in the form of Shahzaib Hasan – means that the entire squad now comprises players selected without the consent of the captain and the coach with neither happy over the snub.
However, according to the PCB Chairman, the decision was not taken to over-rule Afridi and Younis but was forced due to ICC’s rules and regulations.
“It wasn’t to hurt anyone’s egos or self-esteem,” Butt told The Express Tribune. “The decision was taken while considering ICC’s rule that no player outside of the initial 30-man squad could be selected for the tournament. “The change wasn’t made because it was assumed that Irfan was chosen without my permission. The ICC is very strict with its rule and it was essential to make the necessary replacement.”
In a similar circumstance last year, Abdul Razzaq was sent to England after Arafat’s injury in Pakistan’s first match of the tournament. Razzaq, who had severed ties with the unofficial Indian Cricket League (ICL) then, was fast-tracked into the national side without having being named in the 30-man squad.
The chief selector, too, backed Butt’s decision, saying Rehman was a good choice considering the type of pitches in the West Indies, while forgetting the moment of madness that he went through a day earlier.
“Rehman has been selected with the chairman’s approval,” said Khan. “Irfan was not selected by me but by the coach and the captain. I wanted to select Rehman in the first place considering how spinnerfriendly the pitches are in the West Indies and how successful he can be.”
According to sources in the PCB, Younis called up the chairman apologising for the act that led to the confusing scenario, citing unawareness of the ICC rules about replacing an injured player.
Khan also lauded Gul’s honesty and how the fast-bowler came out with the injury without hiding it and heading to the tournament half-fit. Gul, whose absence will be a massive blow for the defending champions, is the highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 internationals as well as being the top wicket-taker in the World Twenty20s in 2007 and 2009.
His accuracy and speed with the ball was a major component in Pakistan’s success at last year’s event. The services of Arafat, too, will be missed by Pakistan as he is the country’s most experienced Twenty20 international following his country and county commitments. Pakistan are due to launch their title-defence on May 1 against Bangladesh.