LAHORE: Long discarded batsman Fawad Alam and uncapped pace bowler Usman Shinwari were named on Saturday in Pakistan’s Test squad that suffered a 2-0 whitewash in Australia last month, as chief selector-cum-head coach Misbah-ul-Haq announced a 16-member party for the two-match home Test series against Sri Lanka.
The series starts on Dec 11 at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi. The second match will held in Karachi.
All-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed and medium pacer Mohammad Musa Khan were axed to bring in Fawad and left-armer Usman. Right-armer Musa, 19, however will remain with the national side during the Sri Lanka Test series in order to continue training with bowling coach Waqar Younus.
Announcing the team along with the national selection committee coordinator Nadeem Khan, Misbah said, “Overall two changes were made as Fawad Alam came in place of Iftikhar Ahmed due his domestic performance. Similarly, Usman was also selected for his domestic performance as he is performing well with full energy.”
Usman Shinwari named in squad for SL Tests
The 34-year-old Fawad played his third and last Test against New Zealand in Dunedin way back in November 2009 while Shinwari is yet to make his Test debut, having played in 17 ODIs and 16 T20 Internationals since making his international debut in 2013.
Left-handed Fawad has been performing exceptionally in Pakistan’s domestic season for the last five years, having scored 672 runs (average 56) in the 2015-16 season, 499 runs in 2016-17 (average 55.44), 570 runs (average 40.7) in 2017-18, 699 runs (average 69.9) in 2018-19 and 781 runs (average 71) in the ongoing 2019-20 season.
Shinwari took 15 wickets in six Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20 first-class matches at an average of just over 25.
Misbah said the Sri Lanka series carried considerable significance for Pakistan.
“The series against Sri Lanka is much important for us. Our main target is to come back on the winning track. It is also important because after a long time of ten years we are going to play Test cricket on home soil,” the chief selector said.
Misbah, who is being criticised for some questionable selections in the home series against Sri Lanka T20 series prior to the Australia tour, denied the notion that he was the sole decision maker in selection.
“It is a wrong perception that one-man show is going on here and I am solely taking all the decisions. It is wrong and there should be clarity. There are six selectors, watching every match closely at the domestic level and feeding the performances of the players with all necessary information about their fitness, technicalities and abilities. So, no one is taking unilateral decisions,” he elaborated.
To a question, Misbah said if Fawad was not selected for the Australia tour, the reason for it was that there were Iftikhar and Haris in the middle-order who had the added advantage of being spin bowlers.
“Iftikhar performed [well] with the white ball in Australia. So he would remain on our radar,” Misbah said while dispelling the impression that media pressure forced him to include Fawad in the squad for the Sri Lanka series.
Misbah said no one was write off in his book as whenever he would needs any player at specific place he would be considered.
“I write off no one. Whenever I need a player for a specific place or role, that player will be considered [for selection],” he emphasised.
To a question, Misbah said at least one year was required to judge a coach’s performance.
“Everyone knows how much time is required to prepare bowlers and batsmen and the best combination of players. In my opinion, at least one year is needed to get an idea if anyone is going in right or wrong direction. And if anyone is not performing after getting appropriate time he should leave,” Misbah said.
“After every bad performance, a player and his coach must first curse themselves for their own failure as no one is happy for one’s own poor show.”
To a question that critics were not happy with his role as head coach of Islamabad United in Pakistan Super League, Misbah said it was the assignment he had earned before signing up with the PCB for his new role.
“If you trust me as honest person then it does not matter and if I can do work with honesty then it is plus point for me. As head coach of Islamabad United I can also watch players of the opposition very closely and the PSL is the best platform to give me more experience as coach, particularly in T20 format,” reckoned Misbah. “Those who are saying that I am burdened by my workload are not right, in fact they want to get some seats vacated.”
Responding to a query, Misbah said though he had considered an opinion to call back Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz to the Test team, it was turned down because they on their own had decided to quit this format.
“If anyone compels them to continue Test cricket they may not perform under tough conditions because they are not mentally prepared for this format,” Misbah remarked.
While noting it was worrying that captain Azhar Ali’s individual performance remained below par in the last two series (against South Africa and Australia), Misbah underlined that he (Azhar) had performed well in West Indies, Australia, England and in UAE on many occasions in the past.
“It is time to support him, instead of considering his replacement.”
The chief selector continued, “But another reason behind it [poor batting form] is that we are playing less Test cricket, so, it is not easy to excel at international level, after a long absence. After playing a tough Test series in Australia, four upcoming Test matches [two each against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh] on home soil are big opportunities for us to take a good start on the way to claiming the title of world’s Test championship,” he said.
Answering a question, Misbah said he — without feeling the fear of loss — would prefer fast pitches for the home Test series against Sri Lanka.
“We need wickets supporting fast bowlers irrespective of the results as it is better to be conducive with such pitches to perform well in Australia and England. Yes, Sri Lankans are coming with a good pace attack but ultimately fast pitches are also in our favour,” Misbah concluded.
Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Sr, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicket-keeper), Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2019