The omission of Fawad Alam from Pakistan's ODI squad for the ongoing series against New Zealand may have come as a shock to many, but according to a highly placed Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official, it was part of a larger plan to get Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal back in the team for the World Cup.
The PCB official, who requested anonymity, revealed to Dawn.com that the team management, two individuals in particular, were pushing for the selection of Malik and Kamran despite the players being out-of-favour with the selectors for a while now.
Both players have been included in Pakistan's 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup.
"I am deeply frustrated at the way personal preference is being given priority over merit. It was quite evident with the way Fawad Alam was dealt with. What is the point of sending your in-form player [Fawad] on an 'A' tour when an ODI series is taking place?"
It must be mentioned here that the left-handed middle-order batsman has been one of the leading scorers in the ongoing first-class championship, while also performing consistently on the international stage since his comeback earlier this year. With a Test average of 41.66, 45.14 in ODIs and 56.73 in first-class, Alam has mostly got the short end of the stick during his career.
Alam's omission was most surprising considering the comments of the PCB chief Shahryar Khan during Pakistan's series against Sri Lanka in September.
“There is no shortage of courage and fighting spirit in Fawad who has repeatedly done wonderfully in pressure situations since his comeback. This is why I rate Fawad very highly as a fighting cricketer,” Khan had said.
But according to the PCB official, more than how Alam was dealt with, it was baffling how 'eagerly' the team management was backing two players who have not played ODIs for over a year.
"Malik and Kamran have not played for a while now. In fact, with Sarfraz's recent performances there is no room for another keeper. But they want Kamran as a third opener in the World Cup squad. Malik and Kamran shockingly made it to the 30-man squad, don't be surprised if they end up flying to Australia and New Zealand," the official said.
With Mohammad Hafeez now barred from bowling by the International Cricket Council for an illegal action, the all-rounder Malik's case may be strengthened. But there would be no logical premise to include wicket-keeper/batsman Kamran as his younger brother Umar is in the squad and quite a decent makeshift gloveman himself.
The ICC World Cup commences in Australia and New Zealand on February 14, with Pakistan facing arch-rival India in their first Group B game a day later at Adelaide.