Mushtaq Mohammad. Photo Courtesy: PakPassion.
By Amir Husain
After a protracted deliberation process, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) selection committee announced its list of 15 players for the upcoming Champions Trophy in England. The selectors opted for a mixture of youth and experience, led by 39-year-old Misbah-ul-Haq. But much to the surprise of many, Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal were excluded from the final squad, triggering a debates amongst fans and experts. The decision to axe the once talismanic figure of Shahid Afridi was the big point of contention, with discussions continuing late into the night between PCB Chairman Zaka Ashraf and Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
Speaking exclusively with PakPassion.net, former Pakistan captain Mushtaq Mohammed discussed the specifics behind the decision to ignore Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal as well the strengths of the squad chosen.
“Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal are excellent players and have expressed their ability on the international stage many times in the past, but in my opinion their exclusion from the Champions Trophy is completely justified. They have been given enough chances, but failed to make those chances count. Besides, there is significant competition for places in the Pakistan team,” Mushtaq opined.
Afridi has struggled to make an impact in one-day cricket over the last 12 months, having taken 15 wickets from 16 ODIs at an average of 43 in 2012, and no wickets from the five matches in which he has participated in the current calendar year, leaking 210 runs in the process. This is in comparison to a fruitful 2011 in which he picked up 45 wickets at 21.
Mushtaq feels Afridi’s lack of ability to strike with the ball is a consequence of his age: “Afridi is getting old and there comes a time when you have to bring in younger players. Age catches up with everybody, which may well be the case with Afridi.”
Mushtaq emphasised the importance of Saeed Ajmal, the experienced off-spinner, to the side: “The Pakistani bowling attack is strong, but primarily founded on the skill of Saeed Ajmal. He is ranked No 1 in the world in ODIs and for good reason. He offers a significant degree of control as well as being a prime wicket-taking option.”
Mushtaq was coach of the side that reached the final of the 1999 World Cup and is therefore no stranger to managing a side in a big tournament. He feels the final squad chosen for this summer’s Champions Trophy was not the right one. “The average age of the Pakistan team is 29. This is an ageing team. The likes of Misbah and some other older players should be making way for younger players. The only exception is Shoaib Malik as he brings a lot of good skills to the team. I feel that the PCB should know that the ICC Champions Trophy is not an important tournament. They should have sent a team full of young players, with a youthful feel, but instead they are sending a team full of ageing cricketers. It really makes no sense to me,” said Mushtaq.
Pakistan’s first game of the Champions Trophy will be on Friday 7 June against the West Indies at The Oval.
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net)