Was Nasim Shah pulled out of U-19 World Cup squad over age issue?

Updated January 07, 2020

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The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) late decision to drop teenage pacer Nasim Shah from the Pakistan Junior team, which is set to participate in the Junior World Cup in South Africa later this month, is most likely for the reason to avoid further controversy over his age in the international media, well informed sources told Dawn. — AP/File
The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) late decision to drop teenage pacer Nasim Shah from the Pakistan Junior team, which is set to participate in the Junior World Cup in South Africa later this month, is most likely for the reason to avoid further controversy over his age in the international media, well informed sources told Dawn. — AP/File

LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) late decision to drop teenage pacer Nasim Shah from the Pakistan Junior team, which is set to participate in the Junior World Cup in South Africa later this month, is most likely for the reason to avoid further controversy over his age in the international media, well informed sources told Dawn.

Though Nasim had been selected in the U-19 World Cup squad, he was later drafted into the senior team which toured Australia in Nov-Dec 2019 for the two-Test series and hogged the limelight as a rookie fast bowler. When the Junior team was in the final stages of preparing for the World Cup, the PCB suddenly announced that the bowler would not be part of the squad for the mega event as head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis had other plans worked out for him.

On the tour of Australia, some questions over Nasim’s age were raised in the international media but the PCB categorically denied all such reports and said that it totally relies on NADRA’s record and there is no reason to doubt the young pacer’s age. However, some ex-players from Australia, Pakistan and even India still expressed their doubts.

On Monday, reliable sources told Dawn that despite defending the age of Nasim quite stoutly, the PCB did initiate an investigation at its own level after the tour of Australia to set the record straight on the bowler’s age. Sources said that PCB’s doctors in their reports could not ascertain Nasim’s exact date of birth because they are of the view that no reliable scientific way is available to determine that while no international sporting body recognizes bone test as the authentic parameter to decide any player’s age.

It may be mentioned that according to an interview published in Dawn in 2016, former West Indian great fast bowler Andy Robert had mentioned that he had spotted Nasim at a talent hunt programme in Karachi in 2016 and predicted that he will develop into a world-class fast bowler very soon.

An official of the junior team’s management on the condition of anonymity told Dawn that Nasim’s presence in the team would have been more beneficial for Pakistan to win the tournament. But he said senior team head coach Misbah and bowling coach Waqar preferred to work with him at home before the home series against Bangladesh which, though, is currently in doldrums.

“I must say that I very much liked a young fast bowler by the name of Nasim. He is just 16-year-old. I am sorry that I did not have at least two, three weeks’ time to work with him,” the 65-year-old Antiguan pacer said in the interview. “This fellow is very aggressive, he has real pace and he is so young. He has the passion for the game and if he maintains it, he will reach far. He is a very good prospect,” Roberts was quoted in that interview.

When Dawn tried to contact PCB chairman Ehsan Mani to get his views on the issue of Nasim’s age, he was quite reluctant to talk.

However, a PCB spokesman confirmed that the PCB had initiated the investigation over Nasim’s age. When asked what was the need to start the investigation when the PCB had no doubts whatsoever over his age, the spokesman said it was a routine practice.

The spokesman also denied speculations that the decision of dropping Nasim from the World Cup squad owing to the age issue and insisted that it was a decision purely taken by the senior team management.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2020