Looking for answers: T20 opening spots up for grabs, says chief selector

Haroon Rasheed claims young players will continue to be given chances ahead of World T20.

Nabeel Hashmi August 30, 2015
Mukhtar has impressed against weaker opponents but struggled against Sri Lanka. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: The national selection committee, led by Haroon Rasheed, is keen to try a few more faces, especially in the opening slot ahead of the World T20 next year in India. He will be keeping a close eye on a number of promising players in the upcoming domestic T20 event which gets underway in Rawalpindi on September 1.

Pakistan have been struggling to find a good opening combination in the T20 format despite having tried the likes of Ahmed Shahzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, and Sharjeel Khan. The hard-hitting Mukhtar Ahmed, on whom a lot of hopes were resting, has started to look more and more like Awais Zia; swinging his bat as hard as he can and was exposed for his poor technique and temperament against Sri Lanka.

World T20 winners Shahzaib Hasan and Sharjeel Khan are two players who have wreaked havoc in domestic cricket but have struggled to replicate that impact in international cricket.

Wicketkeeper and T20 vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed has been used as a makeshift opener and has done well, scoring 85 runs at an average of 42.50.

Haroon confirmed that the opening slot is still up for grabs, with the likes of Jamshed, Sharjeel and Shahzaib also in the running. “We’ll try a few combinations at the top, with Nauman Anwar slated to play as an opener in the upcoming series against Zimbabwe, while anyone who has played for Pakistan can be drafted in if we feel that they can add to the team,” said Haroon.

Mukhtar started off well, with a decent 37 on his T20 debut against Bangladesh and followed it up with back-to-back half-centuries against Zimbabwe. But despite the good start, critics had claimed he would struggle against good bowling attacks due to his poor technique and those predictions came true as he made a total of six runs in two matches against Sri Lanka.

Haroon, however, remains upbeat about the player. “We believe in Mukhtar,” added Haroon. “He can be a success at the international level. He has shown the potential to tear oppositions apart and you need such players in the team to get you to a good start. There are flaws in his technique but he is working on them.”

Mukhtar still has a terrific record with 188 runs in five innings at an average of 37.60 and a strike-rate of 144.61.

Meanwhile, it seems that the chances of Mohammad Amir making a return into international cricket against Zimbabwe are minimal, with Haroon stating that he would have to prove himself first and earn back his place in the side after a five-year gap.

“We’ll monitor Amir as well but he needs to earn his place back,” explained Haroon. “It isn’t easy to return after five years and bowl like before. His real test would be in first-class cricket. We’ve got good youngsters coming up in Ziaul Haq and Mir Hamza so they have a chance to impress us as well.”

The chief selector added that they will continue with their recent policy of giving young players a chance. “The youngsters who have been thrown in at the deep end have done pretty well and it would be nice to blood in a few youngsters in the series against Zimbabwe,” he said. “There are still some grey areas and shortcomings that we would like to address before the World T20.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2015.

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