ONE cannot remember the last time a Pakistan cricket team took the field in the three formats without at least one of the Akmal brothers in the playing XI. The squad announced the other evening for the South Africa Test leg features none of the three brothers — Kamran, Adnan and Umar. The non-consideration of both Kamran and Umar was unsurprising because they no longer feature in the Test side.
But middle brother Adnan was expected to carry on in the longer format on the forthcoming tour following a decent run since his promising entry as the wicket-keeper/batsman during the last Test series Pakistan played against the Proteas in the United Arab Emirates towards the end of 2010.
Adnan’s track record (440 runs and 55 dismissals in 16 Tests) definitely merited his selection, particularly with Misbah-ul-Haq being his biggest supporter. The Pakistan captain has felt at ease with his departmental team-mate — since both turn out for Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited in the domestic competitions — behind the stumps. But the selectors this time have put their weight behind the in-and-out Sarfraz Ahmed on what is going to be a gruelling tour.
Sarfraz, who captained Pakistan to Under-19 World Cup glory in 2006, has generally remained in the shadow of both Kamran, who celebrates his 31st birthday on Sunday (today) and Adnan for a long time. In fact, Sarfraz made his Test debut ahead of Adnan in 2010 when he was sent on SOS call for the dead rubber fixture against the Aussies in Hobart after Kamran’s infamous howlers in the preceding Test in Sydney had tested the patience of his team-mates on that disastrous trip Down Under.
Widely regarded as the better wicket-keeper by many cynics, Sarfraz is bound to face intense scrutiny when he takes his position behind the timber in the opening Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Feb 1. A determined character, Sarfraz is amply capable of justifying his selection provided he controls the emotions and the pains he had to endure during his time on the sidelines when Adnan was preferred over him.
Umar Akmal, touted as a batsman of rare brilliance when he started playing first-class cricket in the autumn of 2007, should consider himself extremely fortunate to be still playing at international level. The youngest Akmal has sadly flattered to deceive on many occasions. Some 15 months ago, Mohsin Khan — then the chairman of selectors — made the right call by overlooking him for Test selection after Umar continuously repeated his reckless approach at the crease. It was a move aimed at making the youngster a more disciplined player in all forms of the game, but Umar, apparently, is in no mood to change his egocentric ways as we all saw during the recent limited-overs tour of India.
While most of the South Africa-bound members more or less picked themselves on merit, the fast-tracking of pace-bowling sensation Ehsan Adil is a very bold move keeping in mind that he is still in the middle of his maiden season of first-class cricket. The elevation of Mohammad Irfan is also not without risks since the gangling left-arm paceman is seldom used to bowling long spells in first-class tournaments.
The most remarkable selection is that of the prodigious left-handed batsman Haris Sohail who has now graduated from one form to another without even getting a chance to prove himself on the international stage. He was first selected in the Twenty20 squad for the Sri Lanka tour last June and then picked in the ODI squad for the Indian trip.
Faisal Iqbal, the ever-willing ‘fringe’ batsman also makes a comeback of sorts despite not getting a decent run in the past. Nobody has been made to wait for this long and Faisal, who is still only 31, deserve consistent opportunities to show his mettle.
It is an irony that both Faisal and Misbah made their Test debut together at Auckland against New Zealand in Mach 2001 and over the years have gone in different directions. That’s how Pakistan cricket operates!