The good news for Fawad Alam, of late, has been his rejection rather than selection for the twin tour of Ireland and England. He can continue to be the hero, the talk of the town, every Twitterati’s dream, and the undisputed favourite across the blogosphere. All this without having to deliver in conditions that are, to say the least, alien to most of Pakistan. As against the docile wickets at home on which Alam has been piling on mountains of runs over the last few seasons, the ball keeps wobbling around in UK conditions. Good for him ... if you know what that means!

For the selection committee, led by Inzamamul Haq and coach Mickey Arthur, however, the decision has left a lot to answer. For those who have started taking interest in cricket in the last decade or so, Inzamam was a pretty decent batsman known, among a few other things, for his intense likes and dislikes when he was the national team’s captain. His current claim to fame is being Imamul Haq’s uncle.

But of course that has nothing to do with the latter’s selection as Imam has been apparently picked on the basis of his mighty record on the domestic circuit, scoring at an earth-shattering average of 34 runs per innings across his 34-match career. The naysayers may argue all they like about these being third class statistics in a First Class setting, but they surely don’t know cricket as much as Inzamam does.

The selection for Pakistan’s tour of Ireland and England is bereft of any consistent logic

The naysayers may also argue that these numbers — unimpressive as they are — pale into insignificance when compared to Alam’s average of 55 runs per innings across a 145-match career. They may also bring into question that while the former has four centuries and nine 50s, the latter has 27 centuries and 57 half centuries. But, then, the counter-argument remains pretty much the same. The naysayers do not know cricket as much as Inzamam does.

Read: Fawad Alam's fitness score puts younger cricketers to shame

For reasons best known to him (the rest of us, at best, can only guess), Inzamam, and of course Arthur, wanted to include someone with an average of 34 runs per innings; 34.46 to be precise. And it was just sheer luck that Imam was the only one who could match that. It had nothing to do with nepotism or any such notion. Please remember, nepotism is wrong ethically, morally, professionally and even from a religious standpoint. The pious man that Inzamam is, there is something seriously wrong with those who may even think of an accusation in that regard. Period.

What differentiates Haq and Alam is their position in the batting order. One is an opener, while the other plays in the middle order. So they may not have been direct contestants for a slot. And here lies the problem. The squad has as many as four opening batsmen for a three-Test outing. The selectors, and, indeed, the coach, apparently have serious doubts up the order. It is as if they don’t trust the guys who have been selected to do the job and have a chop-and-change strategy in mind. This does not boost confidence at all.

But the middle order itself is too brittle, with only Asad Shafiq having worthwhile exposure to pin our hopes on. Babar Azam seems to have been there for long, but that impression is based on his appearances in the One Day Internationals which he has been playing for three years now. In terms of Tests, he has only played 11. So, have expectations of him at your own sot and peril.

But Azam suddenly looks like a seasoned campaigner when you take a look at the statistics the squad brings to the table. Leaving out the five players who have played at least 30 Tests, the remaining 11 players have a total experience of 49 outings in the longer version of the game.

And, of them, Rahat Ali alone has 20, leaving the rest to make do with 29 Tests. To cut it short, there are nine players — 56 per cent of the squad — who have between them five Tests.

And batting is not the only department which might feel the heat on the tour. On its part, the bowling side is full of bowlers who do well on the English County circuit where trundlers come running in and bowl at what is called a military pace, leaving it to the weather to make it move one way or the other.

The coach has explained in detail the case of Wahab Riaz and one can’t but agree with him that he has not won many games in recent years. But with the kind of squad selected, only a foreign coach could have taken such a decision for we tend to give foreigners a free hand. From government officials seeking foreign investment to sports managers looking for foreign coaches, we seem to offer the same carrot: ‘no questions asked.’

The argument about Riaz’s “work ethic” is reminiscent of Arthur’s episode about “homework” to the Australian players when he was the coach there (remember?). To have talked of it right after the player ended up as the leading wicket-taker in Pakistan Super League (PSL) takes some doing.

In a nutshell, the selection criterion is seriously a muddled entity. Some have been picked for having done well on the domestic circuit. Some have been left out despite having done much better there. Some have been picked for their performances in the PSL. Some have been left out despite being star performers there. While the team can still do some good to itself while on tour and everyone wants it to do well, the selection will still be as bereft of logic as it is today.

The last word amid all this confusion must go to the chief selector. “We have tried to strengthen our batting and also considered giving a chance to youngsters [on the tour] as the next World Cup is in England.” See? On a Test tour, we are sending players to prepare for ODI tournament. It takes an Inzamamul Haq to come up with such a crooked argument. And, just to make sure that we are all on the same page, his current claim to fame is his being the uncle of Imamul Haq who has scored 34 runs per innings across his 34-match First Class career.

Fawad Alam can continue to enjoy his celebrity status without having to face the music. In many ways, that is reward enough.

humair.ishtiaq@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, April 22nd, 2018

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