LONDON, July 22: Former Pakistan captain and wicket-keeper Rashid Latif has rated Danish Kaneria as Pakistan’s front-ranking bowler and has urged national selectors to include him in the One-day International and Twenty20 squads in order to improve the team’s performance.

Kaneria, currently playing for Essex, has not featured for his country at all this year owing to Australia’s refusal to tour Pakistan in March for a Test series. He was also demoted to category C when the central contracts were handed out to players earlier this year.

“Our bowling is very weak at this point in time. There is no Umar Gul and the future of Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar look very uncertain,” said Rashid, who is here on a short visit. “Even with them in the side, the main problem I see with the team is the absence of a match-winning left-arm spinner or a leg-spinner and that’s where Kaneria comes in.”

Slamming the selectors for persisting with part-time spinners and ignoring a specialist in the side, Rashid argued that in the short forms of the game a team cannot solely rely on fast bowlers or part-timers and there comes a time when it needs to fall back on a quality spinner.

“Although the selectors have sidelined Kaneria, I think he’s our main bowler when it comes to ODIs and Twenty20 cricket. Until and unless he is included in the playing eleven for these formats, Pakistan will never be able to have a strong bowling attack.”

Although Kaneria has only played 18 ODIs for Pakistan since making his debut in 2007 — with his last being in 2007 against Zimbabwe — he has regularly taken wickets in the limited overs format. In the current one-day English county season, Kaneria has taken nine wickets in six matches at an average of under 20 as well as being the fourth highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 competition with 18 wickets in 11 matches.

“Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed were made into trump card bowlers by Imran Khan and Wasim Akram respectively. Why the same can’t be applied to Kaneria is beyond my understanding.

“You can’t label him as just a Test bowler without giving him an extended run in the ODIs and Twenty20 cricket. Whenever he has played, there is this sword hanging over his head that he will be ousted even if he performs.

“You can’t do that to someone with a caliber of Kaneria. Give him confidence and he will deliver the goods, especially when the faster bowlers are not performing.”

Rashid also shrugged aside claims that Kaneria is being left out of the ODI squad due to his lack of batting skills. “By the time it’s his turn, there is either not much time left, or that the batting line-up has failed. It’s the batsmen’s duty to ensure they perform and build up a sizeable total, not Kaneria’s, so you can’t keep him out because he can’t bat too well.”

Citing current and recent examples like Shane Warne, Daniel Vettori and Muttiah Muralitharan, Rashid emphasised on the need for a specialist spinner in the ODI side. “Anyone who has played cricket knows that on a spinning track, teams like Australia, England and South Africa have great difficulty playing spinners when under pressure. It is due to that we must not waste Kaneria and pick him for the next ODI series that Pakistan plays.”

Rashid also became the latest of former players to question Shoaib Malik’s captaincy as well as his place in the Test side. Under Malik’s captaincy, Pakistan won the Abu Dhabi series against Sri Lanka as well as reaching the final of the World Twenty20 last year.

However, a Test and ODI series loss at home to South Africa and similar results on the Indian tour followed. Pakistan did manage whitewash at home against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as well as a tri-nation win in Bangladesh but failed to reach the Asia Cup final in front of the home crowd.

“After the results that we’ve had, the management needs to think whether Malik deserves to be the captain or even claim a place in the Test squad,” Rashid said.

“His performance has been adequate but it’s his leadership skills that are lacking. However, he has missed crucial matches and has failed to lead the side courageously when required to do so.

“There is also a need of a specialist No 6 batsman in the side. Previously we tried playing Abdul Razzaq which did not go according to plan. You look at A.B. de Villiers and his innings against England and that is exactly what Pakistan needs.”