Cricket in Pakistan: Select on merit, not on favouritism!
And so the chief selector has spoken: No more messing around with the squad, unless a new player shows exemplary form in the upcoming domestic T20 event! The plan is to continue to stick with the tried and tested old guns.
Iqbal Qasim seems to be working under the premise that too much shuffling around in the team compromises the players’ morale and confidence. The policy being sought is to allow a player ample time inside the field for him to mature up and to prove his mettle.
This would have been a good strategy had the team shown sufficient potential, or some of the players had not overstayed their welcome. It irks me to see the same players being given a chance series after series when they continue to stage abysmal shows.
The criteria of selection should be performance and performance alone. Age and experience of the players or their sway within the team as well as politics should not be allowed to influence the decision making anyhow. The selectors have not proven themselves impartial enough to be exonerated of this charge.
Going into the World T20, no one expected the greens to lift the cup. The players were whimsically selected on the basis of seniority and experience. The selectors’ lack of confidence in the youngsters was betrayed when many fast bowlers were overlooked, and instead the ever so unreliable Muhammad Sami was picked up.
The net result being that Kamran Akmal (keeping to his tradition) did drop a few, fast bowlers disappointed greatly with the ball, while the batting line-up featured Shoaib Malik in all six matches with a criminal strike rate of 90 in the tournament. I would have criticised Shahid Afridi too, had it not been for the fear of a severe hit-back from his fans!
It is also sad to notice that Faisal Iqbal, Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar continue to hold the contracts with the Pakistan Cricket Board after having been proved useless in numerous times.
All this has to change.
Our selectors need to be a little more proactive and pre-emptive in their approach. Finding a replacement for a slot opened up by such failing stalwarts shouldn’t be so hard in a country with a thriving domestic set-up and where a vast majority takes up cricket as soon as they can handle the paraphernalia.
The news story that greeted me when I turned to cricinfo to check upon the facts was: “Babar hoping for Pakistan chance”. Overshadowed by the talented trio of Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Raza Hassan, Zulfiqar Babar is a tad unlucky to be contending with such gifted lot, and there is only an outside possibility of him being utilised in the foreseeable future despite him bagging the highest number of scalps in the domestic President trophy this season. There are others, however, who lay an even better claim to the green cap than this unfortunate left-armer.
Spin bowling being the forte of the current Pakistani squad, we need to focus upon the areas that deserve some changes. There is no dearth of good batsmen, keepers or the fast bowlers conveniently being overlooked in vain hopes of building up a team with sufficient experience but showing limited promise to deliver.
Haris Sohail (Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited), for instance, with a first class batting average of 52 in more than 50 matches, and a very impressive average of 134 in the current season, deserves the limelight. Similarly, the 20-year-old Muhammad Rizwan (Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited) — with a career batting average greater than 41 — has demonstrated his worth, both behind the stumps and as a batsman, and therefore justifies substituting Kamran Akmal. On the bowling front Ehsen Adil, Azhar Attari and Junaid Nadir are creating quite a commotion, and there could be no harm in preferring them over the likes of Yasir Arafat with an ODI bowling average of 93.
A factor common to the players I’ve named above is that they are all below 24 years of age. This, in itself, could act as a favourable aspect in the selection of these, since their inclusion in the team would strengthen the edifice for a longer stretch of time. Also, with greater stamina and energy, they’re likely to show more activity in the field as well. India’s success story vindicates that the young blood can handle the demands of the modern cricket better than their aged colleagues.
The chief selector should formulate a long term strategy with a greater focus upon merit and more opportunities being acceded to the youngsters, as well as to dissociate himself from the myopic policies of his predecessors.
This is the change the country requires. It is an imperative for the revival of cricket in Pakistan.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.