KARACHI: Former Test cricketer and current chief selector Haroon Rasheed admitted that finding a worthy replacement of aging off-spinner Saeed Ajmal will prove to be a difficult task for the selectors, but assured that the board has got the other bowling department bases covered.
Ajmal is coming back into the mix after an eight-month layoff, serving a suspension imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) due to his illegal bowling action, and it remains to be seen whether he would be able to bowl as well as before with his remodelled action.
Pakistan’s pace battery has done well in recent matches, but there are genuine concerns in the spin department with all-rounder Shahid Afridi already retired and Zulfiqar Babar and Ajmal aging.
Additionally, Raza Hasan is expected to be banned for two years for consuming drugs, which leaves Pakistan with only Yasir Shah as the new spinner who has played at the international level.
“We have good spinners in the pipeline, but finding an off-spinner who can replace Ajmal is a real concern for us,” Haroon told The Express Tribune. “A lot of off-spinners have been summoned for chucking due to faulty actions, so we won’t have many of them in domestic cricket.
“But you never know, we may still come up with good options like Junaid Ilyas, who has a clean action. Among leg-spinners, we have Shahzaib Ahmed waiting in the wings, while Muhammad Asghar is a promising left-arm spinner. Also, all-rounders Zafar Gohar, Muhammad Nawaz and Immad Wasim can bowl decent left-arm spin.”
The official urged the players to analyse themselves after the recent episode of axing Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal from the national side’s ODI and Test squads on disciplinary grounds.
Asked whether Shehzad was given a dose for his own benefit by dropping him for the Bangladesh series, despite top performances in 2014, Haroon replied, “Players need to perform a self-analysis to check whether their presence is giving any benefit to the team in terms of winning. The team management had apprehensions regarding selfish approach of players and that was taken care of.”
However, Haroon was quick to add that the selectors are also mindful of preserving the careers of those who are the future of Pakistan cricket.
“We had a fruitful meeting with Shehzad, have spoken to the captain and also have had a discussion with the coach, so hopefully everything will be alright,” he added.
Enjoying fruits of the past
Haroon was one of the first people in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) who laid emphasis on channelising the youngsters through Youth Development Programme almost a decade ago when the board decided to bring changes at the grass-roots level.
The likes of new inductees Babar Azam and Sami Aslam, who have been named on Bangladesh tour, have been a part of that process as well.
“The PCB gave me an opportunity of youth development and we devised a plan with long-term implications,” said the official. “It satisfies me that the programme has worked well.”
It should be mentioned here that the Haroon-led selection committee has attempted to provide maximum exposure to the top performers of domestic cricket — barring a few exceptions — in their first assignment of selecting the ‘A’ side for Sri Lanka and the Pakistan team for the tour of Bangladesh.
“If you look at our team, almost the whole squad is aging. There are players who will perform despite their age, but yet we should keep in mind that they can’t last forever. So we need to bring in new players so that by the time these senior players bow out, the younger players are ready to replace them,” concluded Haroon.
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