LAHORE: Consistency in selection despite the inconsistent performances of some players appears to be the criteria adopted by the national selection committee while announcing a 16-member Pakistan squad for the five-match One-day International series against South Africa starting later this month.
A number of Pakistan players have been putting up below-average performances in the previous Asia Cup and New Zealand series but have still been considered by the selectors for the ODIs which has clearly posed a threat to Pakistan’s chances in this year’s World Cup scheduled to be held in England.
While announcing the team through a press release, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said: “Consistency, recent performances and future assignments have been the main criterion in the selection of the team.”
Led by wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, the ODI squad features three openers — Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Shan Masood — the first two mentioned clearly struggling in the ongoing Tests series.
The middle-order features out of form Mohammad Hafeez, veteran Shoaib Malik, uncapped Hussain Talat and in-form Babar Azam. Also featuring in the squad are all-rounders Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf while less than fully-fit Shadab Khan has also been named.
Junaid Khan axed, Hussain Talat included for 5-match contest
The pace attack comprises Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi and Usman Shinwari while hard-working medium-pacer Junaid Khan has been axed.
Mohammad Rizwan has also been selected as second wicket-keeper/batsman along with captain Sarfraz to share his workload
Besides injured Haris Sohail, who returned to Pakistan earlier this week, the other members of the Test team who will return home include Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah.
It may be mentioned here that in the last eight ODIs, Malik’s scores of 78 (vs India), 51 (Afghanistan) and 43 (India) in the Asia Cup are the only notable ones while he failed in the other five games.
Dashing opener Fakhar will have to pull up his socks to give Pakistan a winning start on the bouncy tracks in South Africa to reduce the worries of his team. Shan the third opener is yet to make debut in the ODI cricket. Babar Azam, in the current scenario is only looking a reliable batsman to some extent.
In the bowling department, Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was the top wicket taker from Pakistan against the Black Caps, is likely to partner Aamir who has been bowling well in the South Africa Tests. Spinning all-rounder Shadab and pacer Hasan Ali also feature in the team.
“Junaid has not been considered for this tour because we feel he has to work more on his bowling since the fitness issues that he had cut short his series against New Zealand,” said Inzamam.
“Asif Ali has been dropped due to his inconsistent and below-par performance. In his place, we have decided to give Hussain Talat an opportunity to show his mettle and skills. He is a good left-handed batsman who can bowl also.”
Meanwhile, Inzamam in the press statement said: “The selected team is a unanimous choice of the selection panel, including Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed and coach Mickey Arthur. While selecting the squad, we have tried to maintain consistency, taking into consideration players’ performances in white-ball cricket as well as looking ahead to the upcoming ODI challenges including the World Cup.”
Commenting on the axing of fast bowler Abbas, Inzamam said: “He is very much in our scheme of things, but we have to manage his workload intelligently and smartly. He has just made a return from his injury, and we would like to give him sufficient rest before considering him for future assignments.”
Hussain is the only uncapped player in the side, but he has represented Pakistan in eleven T20Is. In 59 List-A 50-over matches since making his debut in 2018, Hussain has scored 1,402 runs at just under 38. He has also picked up 14 wickets with his medium-past bowling. In the 2018-19 season, Hussain has scored 194 runs in seven matches including a century and taking six wickets.
Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Usman Khan Shinwari.
Jan 19: First ODI, Port Elizabeth (d/n).
Jan 22: Second ODI, Durban (d/n).
Jan 25: Third ODI, Centurion ((d/n).
Jan 27: Fourth ODI, Johannesburg.
Jan 30: Fifth ODI, Cape Town (d/n).
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019