KARACHI: Seasoned batsman Younis Khan and uncapped opener Sharjeel Khan were almost certain selections for Pakistan’s ongoing short tour of South Africa but their inclusions were vehemently opposed by the team management, Dawn learnt on Tuesday.
Reliable sources informed that former national skipper Younis was pencilled in the 15-man squad alongside the left-handed Sharjeel when Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq reportedly discussed formation of the touring party with interim chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Najam Sethi on his return to Lahore from the UAE at the conclusion of the one-day series.
The sources told Dawn that even the logistics department of the PCB had requested Younis to submit his passport to complete the travel arrangements for the South Africa tour in anticipation of his inclusion in the South Africa-bound Pakistan squad.
But, as always, unfortunately nothing is taken for granted in Pakistan cricket until the official announcement of the squad is made as the national team management, preoccupied at the time with the two-match Twenty20 series against the Proteas in Dubai, opposed the move — which was sincerely initiated by Misbah and backed by Sethi — to pick Younis and Sharjeel who has been in excellent form for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) in the current domestic season, the sources further said.
Sharjeel, the 24-year-old left-hander from Hyderabad, had come into contention on the basis of a scintillating knock of 194 for the National Bank of Pakistan in the President’s Cup one-day game against Wapda three weeks ago.
Even the national selectors had supported Misbah’s plea to rely on experienced Younis because the South African playing conditions merited Pakistan going into a difficult series with as many players who had played in that country before.
Moreover, the sources said, Misbah had convinced the PCB chief that Pakistan needed to make a few changes in the squad in the aftermath of the 4-1 ODI series loss and the 2-0 defeat in the Twenty20 rubber.
According to the sources, veteran all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, who made a horrendous comeback to the Pakistan Twenty20 side after 13 months, and out-of-form opener Nasir Jamshed were to be axed for the trip to South Africa where Pakistan initially figure in two Twenty20 fixtures followed by three One-day Internationals.
But the touring team management — Moin Khan (team manager), Dav Whatmore (head coach) and Mohammad Hafeez (Twenty20 skipper and ODI vice-captain) — had its way as both Razzaq and Nasir retained their places with pace bowling all-rounders Anwar Ali and Bilawal Bhatti the only changes in an expanded 17-man squad while Mohammad Irfan (injured) and Wahab Riaz (axed) dropped out.
But Razzaq, however, will not be part of the series as it emerged on Tuesday he is flying back home since he is reportedly suffered a severe hamstring injury during training. Also returning is fellow all-rounder Shoaib Malik who was carrying a hand injury that got aggravated during team’s travel from Dubai to Johannesburg.
The sources further pointed out Younis, who was bitterly ‘upset’ at being overlooked for selection, had started preparing for the tour and skipped the ongoing President’s Trophy against UBL in Islamabad where he was due to lead HBL.
“Younis obviously got assurance [from the competent authority] to get himself ready for the South Africa tour, otherwise he would have surely not missed his department’s match in the President’s Trophy,” sources said. “But sadly Younis was left in the dark by those who now have started to disregard his stature as one of Pakistan’s finest batsmen.”
Younis, sources confirmed, is now being considered by the think-tank of Pakistan cricket as a batting coach — an appointment that could well signal the end of a fine international career which began in February 2000.
Meanwhile, a former Pakistan player was critical of the move by TV channel to chastise the image of Misbah during a talk show at the weekend.
“That [TV programme] was appalling to say the least. How could someone come out with a brainless idea such as this?” the player questioned while talking to Dawn on condition of anonymity. “It was a clear attempt to malign a decent man like Misbah who has played cricket with dignity and respect. One can only describe it as a futile attempt to character-assassinate the Pakistan captain.
“Misbah, to his great credit, remained calm throughout the cross questioning from the interviewers and answered them in a dignified manner which has always been his greatest virtue as a human being.
“The saddest part of this whole exercise was that the chief anchor of the programme blatantly violated rules and regulations because at the moment he also happens to head the cricket board. It was a clear example of an official involved in clash of conflict interests,” the player commented.
“I also fear ground is being prepared to force Misbah into calling it a day. If that’s the case then it could be the death knell of Pakistan cricket.”