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PCB has some explaining to do

July 18, 2012


It happens every time a squad is announced – criticism of the selectors, some unnecessary and unjust name calling, demands for resignations and a this-is-what-it-should-have-been squad from every Pakistan cricket fan. This time it’s no different. The only surprise really was that the squad for the T20 world cup was announced so early. One would have expected the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to take as much time as they could and announce the squad just before the International Cricket Council’s deadline for squad submission (August 18, 2012). However, the squad this time isn’t controversy free – it never is with Pakistan cricket.

The biggest question in this squad is over the non-selection of Junaid Khan – the young quick who impressed one and all in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka, in Sri Lanka, on the flattest of wickets. His back-to-back five wicket hauls gave the hope that not all was lost and that here could be a potential superstar for the future. What do we do with him? That’s right – exclude him from the series that follows.

If the reason is that he’s more suited to Test cricket then the selectors might have missed this – from a T20 game played last year where Khan defended seven runs of the last over for Lancashire. Given his performances, his exclusion is truly mind-boggling. Three five-wicket hauls in eight Tests – the selectors owe us an explanation.

Ahmed Shahzad is another exclusion that’s beyond comprehension. The lad plays his first T20 in over a year against Sri Lanka in June 2012, scores the highest on either side and gets dropped for the next tour. The board has time and again cited his attitude as the biggest concern – he was dropped a year so he could go work on his attitude, he came back and was the highest scorer in the first game he played – what’s wrong with that? When was Pakistan cricket about guys with no attitude issues? In-fighting, player power, politics – all these have been a part of Pakistan cricket for the past two decades – what blasphemy has Shahzad committed? Before throwing Shahzad out and asking him to sort himself out, the PCB needs to sort its own planning out – do you want him or not? If not, do you have another 20 year old who’s touted to be a future star? No, Abdul Qadir didn’t call him the future Sachin Tendulkar for his attitude. This is no way to treat a talent.

Many have questioned Mohammad Sami’s inclusion in this T20 team – it’s interesting to note that in his last T20 game, he almost single handedly won us the game against Sri Lanka. Since his T20 comeback, Sami has figures of  five overs, 38 runs and four wickets – he’s bowled at great pace (quicker than anyone on the Pakistan side has bowled since Shoaib Akhtar left) and he’s done well to keep his place. If Sami’s past record is a concern then it should be known that he was ‘fairly’ dropped and had to perform in domestic cricket to stage a comeback. If he earned his place in the side, he needs to be given a decent run and not discarded after a bad game (something that happened to Sami after he went for 28 runs in that over against Australia in the previous world cup – after having the same batsman, David Hussey, dropped off his bowling earlier in the game).

Other individuals who have all the right to feel hard done-by are Shakeel Ansar, Harris Sohail and Hammad Azam. Sohail didn’t get a game and has been dropped while Azam is going through a bit of what Fawad Alam went through – a few games here and there, glimpses of talent, dropped, called back, another game or two and then dropped again – kudos to the PCB for their treatment of these young men. Ansar’s initial selection was questionable as he had been picked on the basis of a superb century in domestic cricket – one would think earning a call to the international side might need a bit more than a handful of brilliant innings. Kamran Akmal has been called back to the squad and, in all honesty, he is our best choice wicket keeper in T20 cricket because of his explosive batting. His keeping has been an issue but he has made fewer mistakes in T20s and is acceptable in the format mainly due to his batting – also, he does a better job than Umar Akmal. Abdul Razzaq’s call back shows further confusion on the selection committee’s part. If you drop a player and ask him to go play domestic cricket to prove his form, how are you calling him back if there was no domestic cricket played in the country? PCB will never crease to amaze.

The selectors seemed to have tried too hard to cover all bases with this squad. There are six all rounders in Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Razzaq and Yasir Arafat. Hafeez, Afridi and Saeed Ajmal are three names on the team sheet that won’t change throughout the T20 world cup and that means 12 overs out of the 20 will come from them. Malik is being picked as a batting all rounder but Hafeez has said that he might be used as a bowling option as well. Umar Gul is a certain starter. That’s 20 overs for you – in addition to that, Sami or Sohail Tanvir might be picked to open the bowling with Gul. Razzaq’s usefulness in Sri Lanka is restricted to the new ball especially with his pace – what use is it to select both Razzaq and Tanvir and drop Azam? Pakistan would have been better off with taking Tanvir and Azam as Razzaq’s form is unproven and Azam would’ve learned more by being with the team than sitting in Pakistan and watching the world cup on his television.

I am not pointing fingers – nor am I saying that the squad picked represents Pakistan’s best but the squad has been selected and, barring injuries, these guys will be representing our country at the T20 world cup. Save the name-calling, save the hate – get behind this team and support them all the way. On current form, many pundits might rate the West Indies as favorites ahead of us – not ideal but we’re at our best when we go in as underdogs. It is imperative to remember that T20 cricket is entertainment, just like the WWF.

A cricket enthusiast who practices accounting on the side. Based in Ottawa but firmly believes that he’ll lead the PCB one day.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.