Shoaib Malik (left) and Kamran Akmal were selected in Pakistan’s squad for the ICC World T20 2014 © AFP
By Khurram Zia Khan
Looking at the Pakistan players selected for the Asia Cup 2014 and ICC World T20 2014, it is not clear whether the selectors want to go forward or backward. Perhaps, they do not have any direction at all. In the coming days, Pakistan’s cricket team is set to play two international tournaments — the Asia Cup and the World T20 — both to be held in Bangladesh. The team selected for both tournaments has been announced and as expected, the selectors have surprised the fans with their baffling selections yet again!
Considering the way our team is selected, I sometimes feel that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) uses a magic hat to randomly pull out names of players to represent Pakistan in the tournament or series, without any deliberation or tactical decision-making.
The first surprise was the selection of Fawad Alam in the Asia Cup squad. Alam played in a One-Day International (ODI) for Pakistan more than three years ago. His strike rate of 73.80 did not make him an ideal player for the lower-middle order. He is a player who can be more useful in Test matches than in shorter versions of the game.
Another surprising element was the selection of five fast bowlers for the Asia Cup. In Bangladesh, where the pitches are more suitable for spinners, I think Pakistan will be better off with an additional spinner or a batsman in their squad, instead of a pace bowler. Pakistan has some aged players in the squad and it will be better if a few youngsters are included in the team to beef up the fielding in case the need arises. Our team needs young blood and it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Moving along, the team selected for the World T20 doesn’t paint a positive picture either. The selection of Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik is a regressive step since both of them have not given any eye-catching performances in the recently concluded Faysal Bank T20 tournament. In fact, Malik’s performance in Australia’s Big Bash League was utterly unsatisfactory.
Similarly, Kamran’s selection shows confusion and indecisiveness on the part of our selectors. It seems that Pakistan’s selectors are obsessed with having Kamran in the squad for any ICC tournament. His younger brother, Umar Akmal, has been Pakistan’s wicketkeeper for many ODI series. Umar will be playing in both tournaments, but I fail to understand why they would want two wicketkeepers in the team.
After all, Bangladesh is geographically located close to Pakistan and in case of any emergency, a replacement can travel quickly and conveniently. Still, if selectors want two wicketkeepers on the squad for some reason, then why don’t they include Sarfaraz Ahmed, who is a much better choice. Ahmed, after playing a winning match against Sri Lanka, should be given the boost and confidence to be an even better player. But, it seems the selectors are adamant on shaking his confidence by not selecting him.
The selection of Abdur Rehman for the Asia Cup and that of Zulfiqar Babar for the World T20 is also a questionable decision. It would be better if only one of them is selected for both tournaments. Fielding in T20 tournaments is very crucial and has always been our team’s weakest area. To bring agility in fielding, young legs are required. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s team only has four to five young players in the upcoming tournaments, while the rest are all in their early to mid-30s. This will adversely affect our fielding in both tournaments.
Pakistan was once famous for throwing its youngsters in the deep end, but now it seems that our selectors have abandoned this practice due to a fear of defeat. I wish the selection committee would revive this practice since many promising players lose confidence when they are not selected during their peak years; eventually they vanish from our country’s cricketing platform.
I hope that our selectors choose players with a clear mind set and direction. They need to have valid reasons for selecting or dropping a player from the national team. They need to take into consideration their strengths and weaknesses and the reasons should be made public. It is our national team and as a Pakistani, I demand to know why certain players were selected, whilst some very good ones were dropped.
Only if we select a winning team can we hope to win.
ICC World T20 2014 schedule: Match time table with venue details
(Khurram Zia Khan is a writer with The Express Tribune, where the article was originally published. His Twitter handle is @KhurramZiaKhan)