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Who is afraid of Zimbabwe and why?

Published Aug 14, 2013 03:20pm


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Some of the players should have withdrawn and pave the way for youngsters to showcase their talent in Zimbabwe.
Some of the players should have withdrawn and pave the way for youngsters to showcase their talent in Zimbabwe.

Pakistan cricket affairs are becoming a set of jokes, literally. We are touring Zimbabwe in a few days for a full series, and taking the whole army of frontline soldiers to conquer a virtually toothless opposition!

Why for heaven’s sake are likes of Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Younis Khan keen to show their muscle against the lowly-ranked Zimbabwe? At least some of these, if not all, should themselves have shown a bigger heart to withdraw and pave the way for youngsters to showcase their talent in Zimbabwe. But, perhaps, we are yet to cultivate that sort of culture in our cricket.

And what can be said about the amazing Test recall of Faisal Iqbal who holds a very mediocre batting record (averaging 26.76 in 26 Tests) and has failed regularly against top-class rivals.

The selection of Imran Farhat for the Tests was even more bewildering. It looks like Imran, who arrived at the international scene at the start of the 21st century, will continue to be boarded for the rest of the century! However, his late pullout due to “domestic matters” has given talented left-handed opener Shan Masood a good chance to display his willow work in Zimbabwe.

While the perplexing selection of players for a low-profile series like Zimbabwe shows complete lack of planning by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the inexplicable move also indicates an alarming level of insensitivity on part of the management towards development of Pakistan cricket.

‘Aim high’ goes the adage for one to make the zenith in every walk of life. However, it is very obvious the locution has no worth in the eyes of our cricket administrators who — one strongly feels — need some fundamental lessons in recruitment and management.

It appears that the forthcoming back-to-back series against formidable teams like South Africa and Sri Lanka in the UAE are not in our Board’s planning sheets.

Because had it been so, the selection of players for Zimbabwe would have been future-based.

With no chief selector currently in place owing to the ongoing constitutional crisis in the PCB makes the selection matters even more messy and complicated. One is at a loss to understand as to who is in charge of the team selection for the Zimbabwe tour. What role did the selection committee (sans chief selector) play in finalising the squads and how much input was taken from Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez and coaches Dav Whatmore and Mohammad Akram?

If caretaker PCB chairman Najam Sethi’s functions have been restricted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) order, then what was his say in the players’ selection and the approval of the squads? Who is owning the teams chosen for Zimbabwe and what have been the criteria for selection? These vital queries must be addressed immediately to avoid Pakistan cricket hitting rock bottom in international rankings.

Looking into the selections a bit more analytically, one finds several other anomalies. Pakistan will play two Tests, three ODIs and a couple of Twenty20s in Zimbabwe.

The squads named for the ODIs and Twenty20s are a blend of very experienced campaigners and some rookies. Now if promising players like Umar Amin, Haris Sohail, Asad Ali, Anwar Ali (in both limited-overs squads) and Sohaib Maqsood and Zulfiqar Babar (in T20 side) have been picked to demonstrate their worth, how many chances will each of these get altogether on the tour in the presence of Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Afridi, Umar Akmal, Saeed and Mohammad Irfan? Then Ahmed Shehzad, Junaid Khan and Nasir Jamshed are also there in both the limited-overs teams.

Moreover, Sohail Tanvir (T20s) and Abdur Rehman (ODIs) also make it tough for the touring team management to select the playing XI.

The 26-year-old Sohaib from Multan, with a healthy average in first-class cricket, deserved to be in all three formats, or at least in both limited-overs teams so that the strongly-built batsman could have more opportunities to polish his skills.

As far as hardworking Hammad Azam is concerned, one fails to guess why he was ignored for Zimbabwe duty. Looking at the future of Pakistan cricket, the lanky young all-rounder easily merited selection so that he could have more exposure before the South Africa and Sri Lanka series and the World Twenty20, scheduled to be staged in March-April 2014. Sadly, however, Hammad continues to get the same treatment that big-hitting Abdul Razzaq has received during the last few years which is, indeed, a horrible trend taking shape in Pakistan cricket.

More importantly, no one in the PCB seems to be really bothered about grooming a full-time specialist wicketkeeper for the future. Why else would Umar Akmal has been picked to keep wickets in the Zimbabwe limited-overs games? Even if Umar manages to do a fair job behind the stumps, who will be our wicket-keeper for the South Africa and Sri Lanka series and later in the World Twenty20? Surely not Umar since he will be a spent force if he is saddled with the job permanently.

Dashing Khurram Manzoor’s Test recall after three-and-a-half years is perhaps the only new positive move in the Zimbabwe series selection. The solid opener has tremendous potential and is expected to cash in on this opportunity to cement his place for future assignments.

The mindset of the team management is already appearing to be on the defensive side, as is evident from Whatmore’s puzzling statement that youngsters will only be tested in Zimbabwe limited-overs games and not in the Tests.

It is imperative for Pakistan to shun this defensive approach to make notable strides in the game. The PCB should learn from the long-term approach adopted by top-ranked teams like England, South Africa, India and Sri Lanka who have been introducing new and younger players to achieve rich dividends.

It is high time we invested in the younger brigade to make an impact in the 2015 World Cup or else we would end up with Zimbabwe in the ICC rankings.

Comments (27) Closed

Ahmed Aug 14, 2013 03:53pm

We are taking a full strength team to Zim because with our skill set and current form, we are equals with the lowly Zim team.

Syed Ahmed Aug 14, 2013 04:02pm

For once I can agree with Dawn.

aamir Aug 14, 2013 04:22pm

utter nonsense, no team in the world takes any other team lightly as you are suggesting, remember Bangladesh WC 1999. I am surprised how Dawn has published your article smacking of nothing but negativity, void of logic. It is certainly nota front line team thus many new faces. You want a B Team to go there basically; then where the A team will play?, India despite at the top of world still took their best team to Zimbabwe, lets learn from them. We have never really allowed the players to settle, thanks to writers like you.

W63L35 Aug 14, 2013 05:01pm

Realistically ...... which "senior" you want replaced by a which "youngster" in the test side???

Here are the 11 players that played in the last test we played in South Africa;

1) Mohammad Hafeez 2) Imran Farhat 3) Azhar Ali 4) Younis Khan 5) Misbah-ul-Haq 6) Asad Shafiq 7) Sarfraz Ahmed 8) Saeed Ajmal 9) Ehsan Adil 10) Mohammad Irfan 11) Rahat Ali

Let's examine every position....

1) Mohammad Hafeez Hafeez is a senior. You want a youngster in Hafeez place?

2) Imran Farhat Either Khurram or Shan will be playing in his place. I would have preferred Nasir.

3) Azhar Ali You want a youngster in Azahr's place? He is a youngster!

4) Younis Khan Younis is a senior. You want a youngster in YK's place?

5) Misbah-ul-Haq Misbah is a senior. You want a youngster in Misbah's place?

6) Asad Shafiq You want a youngster in Asad's place? He is a youngster!

7) Sarfraz Ahmed Adnan will be replacing him.

8) Saeed Ajmal Ajmal is a senior. You want a youngster in Ajmal's place?

9) Ehsan Adil May be playing or Wahab could replace him.

10) Mohammad Irfan Junaid will replace him.

11) Rahat Ali May be playing or Wahab could replace him. So realistically...... out of Hafeez, YK, Misbah and Ajmal which senior you will "rest" and which "youngster you will try in their place??????????

....if you recall, Zimbabwe scored 412 runs in their first innings when we played them last time in 2011.... if it was not for their batting collapse in 2nd innings, we could have lost the test...because we lost 3 wickets chasing only 88 runs in 4th innings.

So I think... .when you have only 4 true seniors in your side.... you should not drop any more seniors!!!!

I agree that Umar Akmal or Sohaib should have been selected in place of Faisal.

Laeeq Aug 14, 2013 05:29pm

You yourself answer questions in your article. Good players don't want to leave their place as they know that "parchi wala" players will come in their place rather than the true young talent. Pakistan selection committee is biased, so at least we have some good old players. You missed the point.

Laeeq Aug 14, 2013 05:31pm

You need to write that established players don't have faith on the selection committee i.e. why they don't leave places for new players.

Uzaib Alam Aug 14, 2013 05:40pm

You do realise Pakistan hasn't played a test match since January 2013 ? I reckon Zim tour provides to get the guys some match practise instead of resting them for another 2 months and playing a B team. Good selection from PCB, utter nonsense from this writer who has no clue

Ahmed Aug 14, 2013 05:45pm

The moment a policy is announced as follows ;

" Selectors, Coach , captain & poor performing players will automatically be fired after losing a series. Similarly, poor performing players will get only half the contracted emoluments. Every playing 11 must consist of 40% of young talented players."

Only then Cricket Pakistan will once again shine.

Saim Aug 14, 2013 06:17pm

This article is devoid of any sense No team should be taken lightly It is not an experiment we are playing a test team in a test match ODI's and T20's at national level No doubt the selection of a couple of players could be questioned by not the whole team The author of this article makes no sense

sherali Aug 14, 2013 06:35pm

When will "young" Yunus Khan" retire? We definitely need to groom a wicket keeper as Umar Akmal's batting should not be compromised.

malik Aug 14, 2013 07:16pm

Utter nonsense indeed totally agree with Aamir. Pakistan test team is badly out of practice. Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Adnan Akmal, Taufeeq Umar are out of touch due to Lack of test matches. This series is a preparation for the world number 1 team South Africa which Pakistan is facing in October. Both Khurram Manzoor and Shan Masood don't deserve to be in the side ahead of Taufeeq Umar (Test Average 38.72, hit a double century not too long ago), whose only fault is that he is from Lahore. Moin Khan is pushing his Karachi Boys into the side without merit. I hope Masood and Khurram Perform for Pakistan's sake, but Pakistan missed Taufeeq during the South African tour he is much better at playing South African fast bowlers compared to Mohd Hafeez.

javed Aug 14, 2013 08:36pm

for aamir india doesnt send there main players in pakistan no dhoni,sachin,zahir khan,yuvrajsingh,ashwin, they r not in zimbawe

saadi Aug 14, 2013 08:41pm

@aamir: No. Thats not what the author is saying, and you are clearly disjointed from his remarks. There are variances in team performances, and some oppositions are much stronger than others, inexperienced only get a chance to show off their talent when they are not faced with a formidable opposition prowling on them. That is not to say that the whole team should have nothing but young players, but it means you need a team skewed towards young talent. Especially because the old players have not only been tested, they have repeatedly failed.

Ashraf Aug 14, 2013 10:15pm

@aamir: I fully agree with Aamir

Salman Aug 14, 2013 10:40pm

Show respect to your opponents, don't patronize them. I for one am glad that Pakistan is going with full force to play Zimbabwe. This is going to be a good series.

Ibrahim Farooqi Aug 14, 2013 10:44pm

@aamir: My dear Aamir: Which ODI line-up India took to Zimbabwe recently, please recheck your facts, and please check the results too achieved by India there. Looking at the future requirements, they have added to their pool strength by introducing talented youngsters during the last couple of years, and on the other hand, we, despite having loads of natural talent, rather than expanding our pool have restricted ourselves to very few players, and the on-field results speak for themselves, we have won matches and series too, no doubt, but in patches sans consistency. Please read my piece again, if possible for you... Thanks and regards, Ibrahim :)

Sarah Aug 15, 2013 01:00am

@Ahmed: How do you think team which blasted Top nation England 3:0 in three tests and destroyed West Indies in West Indies is at same level as Zimbabwe?Same England team is blasting Australia team 3:0 in current Ashes.No team playing at International level can be taken lightly.

amit Aug 15, 2013 03:48am

i wont be surprise if pak players face tough time against zimbabwe in test matches. in ODI and T20 they are clear winner

Dawar Naqvi Aug 15, 2013 03:56am

Fawad Alam , Shahzeb Hasan should be perm. member of the team. No one performed better than Fawad Alam in last 5 years in domestic cricket. Even for Pakistan his records are better than most of the players. He scored century in his first test and pulled out by MAFIA in next series. PCB should give chance to Asad Shafiq as they are doing for Ahmed Shezad etc.

Syed W. Ali Aug 15, 2013 06:58am

Agree with @Ahmed, this is a great write-up. PCB didn't take advantage of trying out new players in the last tour of Bangladesh. Though it is a tad different this time around. Still, senior players should be rested and more youngsters should be give a chance. Faisal Iqbal selection is definitely a head scratcher. Why invest in a player who has past his prime. I would have much rather seen Mohammed Yousuf in the green and to allow him to retire with full honors.

Aamir Aziz Aug 15, 2013 07:59am

I agree with Aamir about taking other teams (Zimbabwe) lightly... no way does that. I agree we need to bring in younger talent but the reality is that we don't have a replacement for a Test captain, Hafeez certainly cannot do the job. In fact I don't think Hafeez should be playing Tests, he should focus on ODI and T-20s. The selection committee has brought in some younger talent, Anwar Ali, Shan Masood (by default) and Adnan Akmal for the test... there might be some I am missing. Even the ODI and T-20 has some young talent. Maybe they should have Asad Shafiq as the vice captain to groom him for the captain role. Regarding wicket keeper for ODI and T-20, I think having Umar Akmal play a dual role is an excellent idea and the reality is that there is competion so he needs to perform well in both roles. I must say I have seen a change in his attitude, responsibility and patience... he is a talented individual and needs to continue playing like he did in the West Indies series. Additionally, Adnan Akmal who I think is a good keeper needs to perform both as a batsman and Keeper. I think Abdur Rahman should play in the test and maybe give Saeed Ajmal a break from just the test series like we have done for Irfan. As far as Abdul Razzak, I agree we need to get him back, amazing talent and certainly an asset to the present and future of Pakistan.

Don Aug 15, 2013 09:33am

@aamir: You have no idea what you are talking about. This was the time to groom young talent which pakistan is in need of big time. Your argument has no base. All the young guns should be playing and no need of Afridi and Ajmal playing against a lowly ranked team just to boast their averages. Its a shame for PCB. Utter crap actually.

Vivek Aug 15, 2013 10:24am

Well Aamir. India did not take their full strength team to Zimbabwe. Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina were the only seniors

Syed Khaled Aug 15, 2013 11:08am

@Ahmed: True

Common Citizen Aug 15, 2013 11:15am

@aamir: Get your facts right. India did NOT take their best team to Zimbabwe. 5 senior players including the captain were rested. The writer is spot on with his analysis that we need to blood young players in this series since most of our senior players will be retiring in the next few years. It is you who is negative and short-sighted and chances are that you're a paid stooge of the PCB, desperately trying to kiss up to your employers. People like you protect their vested interests rather than having the best interest of Pakistan cricket at heart. Shame on you!

Ahsan Aug 15, 2013 05:20pm

Great article look how India rested their 3rd class bowlers and we are taking Irfan and Ajmal to play full series ............. JOKE

surtee Aug 16, 2013 08:14pm

@Dawar Naqvi: i think that it is not that he is not talented but the real issue if i am not wrong is the behavior on tour's where he was selected.