Younis Khan, ODI team selection is based on performance, not contacts

Published: November 12, 2013
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Younis Khan's disappointment at not being selected was expected. But he should be disappointed on himself, not the selection committee, for his performance so far. PHOTO: REUTERS

Do you remember the days when you would place a school bag on your preferred bus seat to symbolise that it was reserved? It would take a routine effort to have the bag all packed at the end of the last period and then dash towards the car park to get a preferred position.

However, if you were part of a ‘gang’, they would ensure you get a seat alongside them regardless. That would happen, of course, at the expense of a not-so-connected boy. And so goes the story of the mainstay of our One Day International (ODI) middle order.

Back in the day, Younis Khan had the big boys’ support.

Inzamamul Haq and Mohammad Yousaf covered for him and after the first four intensely mediocre years of international cricket, Younis notched up his first ODI century. At the time, he was an ‘asset’ in the making; an investment of years of hogging the spot between two batting greats of modern cricket.

Today, Younis gives a desirable average of 31.88 in ODIs. The opportunity cost of it, however, is the current state of our middle order now. Younis was the preferred investment despite Misbah’s impeccable domestic credentials and look what that resulted in. In due course, Inzamam and Yousaf got off the bus. Misbah’s stop is the next one, it seems, and all he can really do now is to sit down and pray for a traffic jam to appear before his stop comes up.

This brings us to 2013.

Younis’s disappointment at not being selected for the South Africa ODI series in United Arab Emirates (UAE) was expected and nuanced. It was the same for all of us who have come to think of him as the most experienced and dependable middle order batsman that we have. Two things here; experience doesn’t score runs and dependable, in this case, is relative.

The selectors and team management have different purposes for each player in the team for the short and long term. It would be fair to say that the expectation with Younis nowadays is to make runs and, in the process, nurture younger players with his irreplaceable experience; one being the prerequisite of the other.

This expectation would usually come by once a player had performed with at least 253 ODI runs. Younis, however, has only scored around 190 ODI runs in the 2013 calendar year, at an average of 23.75, and yet he has managed to fulfill these expectations.

I guess there comes a time when the selectors feel that a learning middle order prospect with potential to pay dividends in the future is a better bet. A lot like Younis Khan’s early years – a lean form in the two test series and hardly any domestic matches in the past four months – didn’t help make a stronger case for Younis’ return.

Shoaib Maqsood, the rookie prospect, and Asad Shafiq, the ‘experienced’ prospect, were selected for the series. Both have their merits in domestic performance and recent forms respectively. Misbahul Haq and Umer Akmal have won us ODIs with the bat this year as well. If wrong, the decision to drop Younis wasn’t so blatantly wrong; at least not blatantly wrong enough to make him feel shocked and surprised.

Sorry Younis, your pickings are slim and failure sticks out like a sore thumb now that there is no one to clean up the mess. You are no more part of the buddy boys’ group. Be disappointed but only with yourself.

You didn’t deserve the seat this time.

Nazim Zaka

Nazim Zaka

A Technology Consultant working in the field of telecoms, living in England. Tweets as @nazimzaka (twitter.com/nazimzaka)

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