We’re on the cusp of yet another T20I series, and yet again we don’t know what surprises Pakistan cricket has in store for us. This team and its schemers’ long history of shunning logic and embracing the absurd have embarrassed many a preview writers.
In fact, arguably the hardest writing gig in this sport is to predict what’s going to happen in Pakistan cricket next. And with that said, I will not attempt to forecast how Babar Azam and co will do against the West Indies series that starts tonight.
We can, however, identify a few things that the team should do so when they do not get done or get done when the whole point of it is lost, we can then feel that familiar heartburn.
The two most obvious things that we need to do is to persist with Sohaib Maqsood and, to a lesser degree, Azam Khan. Maqsood’s inclusion for the England tour was one of the rare logical selection moves made in recent years.
A player had performed outstandingly in PSL and so he was rewarded right there and then, which should be the norm. But normally, over the years, our selectors have had a tendency to not do the obvious or in a timely manner – especially in the case of domestic standouts. A case in point will be that of Tabish Khan, who was ignored for all the years of his prime when he was a wicket-taking machine but called up when he was way over the hill and no longer deserving.
Thus, Maqsood’s recall made total sense. Unfortunately for him, his return to the national fold coincided with the England tour — never an easy task for players making comebacks — and he could not replicate his PSL form. The cruel thing now will be to cut him out on the basis of his failures in England.
It’s a well-known fact that Maqsood is a bad player of spin – something explained by the fact that leggie Adil Rashid got him out twice in the three matches against England. The West Indies have a decent legbreak bowler in the form of Hayden Walsh Jr but generally speaking they tend to rely on their seamers, which is just what Maqsood likes.
Hence, in an ideal world, the Multan Sultans batter should have been given ample opportunities in the Caribbean – not just as his aforementioned reward but to also decide once and for all if he has got anything left for international stage at the age of 34. That’d be what rational folks would do so expect Maqsood to be carrying drinks for the remainder of the tour before being shown the door.
The next case is that of Azam Khan but his is completely different. Of him, yours truly was and is an admirer and has made no secret. That said, Azam’s addition to the national fold made little sense as his performance in PSL 2021 was nothing special. In fact, his batting average this year (17.40) was more than a run lower than last year’s (18.75) so then why was he deemed worthy of a national colours this time around.
We’ve also found out recently that he is — like several others on the roster — a liability in the field. And there is, after all, a limit to the number of donkey you can hide in the field before opposition batters become exploitative.
The easier solution in this case will again be to cut him out. The saner heads though will not make a mistake over a mistake. Now that he is apart of the squad and has a bit of an x-factor about him, it’d be best to give him a whole series and see the end of this experiment rather than quit halfway now, only to reopen their cases in a different series later.
The most common complaint in Pakistan cricket is of not getting a fair crack of the whip. Let's give that to these chaps in the Caribbean and shut the door on future regrets and what-ifs.
The writer is a cricket aficionado based in Karachi. He sells cars by day and writes sports by night.