LAHORE: While the World Cup is now just two months away, it appears the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) think-tank has adopted a policy under which the opportunity to select the best team for the mega event has been wasted, as a number of prominent players have been rested from the upcoming Pakistan Cup one-day tournament.
The Pakistan Cup is being staged in Rawalpindi from April 2 to 11.
It is pertinent to mention here that the PCB has already given rest to eight Pakistan players from the ongoing five-match One-day International series against Australia in the UAE.
Interestingly, Pakistan’s home series in the UAE comprising Tests, ODIs and Twenty20 games against Aussies was split last year when Australia returned after playing two Test matches and the T20 series. The ODI series was delayed mainly to utilise these games as a preparation platform for Pakistan in the lead-up to this year’s World Cup being held in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.
However to one’s surprise, when the time came the Inzamam-ul-Haq-headed selection committee has decided to give rest to seven top players of the national team including captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shadab Khan and Hussain Talat. During the ongoing series the selectors also called back all-rounder Faheem Ashraf, thus spoiled the opportunity of giving maximum chances to the players to claim places in the World Cup squad.
Now, it seems, the same policy of ‘resting’ has been maintained by the selectors who rested a number of players, including those who could claim World Cup places, for the Pakistan Cup. Among them are Shan Masood, Mir Hamza, Agha Salman, Raza Hasan and Hussain Talat.
Pakistan Cup is the country’s premier one-day event featuring top cricketers representing five teams — Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Federal Areas. Instead of testing the players who could claim places in the national ODI team, players like Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Anwar Ali, Ehsan Adil, Mohammad Sami and Sohail Tanvir have been named in different squads for the Pakistan Cup.
The whole selection policy shows, indirectly, that the selectors have already picked the World Cup squad and they want to keep all the ‘certain’ players away from the action, instead of giving them chances to further hone their skills after they enjoyed an enough 15-day rest between the PSL-4 and the Pakistan Cup.
Moreover, the name of Bilal Asif, the best available off-spinner in the country, was also not considered for the Pakistan Cup in the first attempt, as sources told Dawn that he was included at the eleventh hour to represent Federal Areas. Bilal rose to prominence by taking 6-36 against Australia in last year’s Test in Dubai. Though the series opener in Dubai ended in draw, Pakistan won the second Test in Abu Dhabi by a whopping 373 runs to bag the series.
It may be mentioned here that after the Pakistan Cup, the only opportunity for the Pakistan players to show their mettle, before the World Cup, is an away five-match ODI series against England from May 5 to 19.
Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2019