Pakistan selection committees’ announcements and public criticism have always gone side by side. Perhaps, it is more fitting to say that the former hardly gives a chance to the latter to not wag the tongues. PCB selection committee, headed by Iqbal Qasim, recently [on Thursday] announced Pakistan’s squads for Test, ODI and Twenty20I series to be played against Sri Lanka in coming dog days of June and July. As it turns out, the selectors, once again, find themselves in hot water for doing nepotism – parchi could be more appropriate word if I would be forgiven for using desi slang – in team selections.
Albeit there aren’t sea changes in Pakistan squads but some inclusions and omissions in each squad are enough to wrinkle the brows. The questions are being raised on comebacks of Imran Farhat in ODIs, Mohammad Sami in all the three formats, Faisal Iqbal in Tests and for cold shouldering Hammad Azam from ODI squad.
Mohammad Sami’s sequence of never-ending comebacks into national team continued after he was picked to face-off Sri Lankan team. It is astonishing to know that his selection came after he could grab only 1 wicket in five Twenty20s at bowling average of 134 he played in the recent Super Eight Faysal Bank T20 at Rawalpindi. Also the notion, that he is selected for his 39 wickets at bowling average of 19.82 in 11 matches of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2011-12, gets aborted with the fact Ali Imran (60 Wickets in 11 matches), Imran Khan (58 wickets in 10 matches), Fahad Masood (52 Wickets in 8 matches), Mohammad Khalil (45 wickets in 8 matches) performed with better bowling averages than of Sami’s in the same event, Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. In that order, if Sami can rejoin umpteenth time due to his QAE Trophy performance then what defect those fast bowlers hold who have been taking more wickets than him over the years.
If Bangladesh Premier League was the criteria for selectors to call him in the Test outfit then they have given him one more shot in the arm to further deteriorate his bowling average, which is already the worst in the history of Test Cricket with 50 wickets cut-off – even Shahadat Hossain sits proudly ahead of him. He might have done well in the BPL but as soon as he came back in Pakistan’s domestic Cricket, against better domestic batsmen than those in BPL, his reputation was cut down to size for he took only 4 wickets in last 10 limited-over matches(five Twenty20 and five List A games) he played in Pakistan.
Mohammad Khalil and Mohammad Talha were selected last winter ahead of Bangladesh and England Test series, respectively. Khalil couldn’t get a game while Talha injured himself prior to start of Tests against England. It happens only in Pakistan that a player gets selected, doesn’t get a game and gets dropped for not getting a game. They both were better suited for national recalls after having performed consistently, and better than Sami, in First Class arena of Pakistan.
Then there is curious case of 23-year-old left-arm pacer Rahat Ali from Multan, his selection in only ODI squad comes with rather surprise since it was longer version of the game where he has been more productive. Rahat has 107 wickets at average of under 20 in his career’s 27 First Class Matches, which includes three back-to-back 5-wicket hauls in recent Pentangular Cup where he played for Baluchistan, was up against relatively stronger corps of Punjab & Sindh. He got selected in Pakistan’s ODI Squad notwithstanding he has played only one limited-over domestic match in last 8 months and has taken mere 9 wickets in as many List A (Domestic One Day) matches of his career.
The selectors must and should have found a room for Rahat Ali’s selection in Test squad but then it was possible only if they had averted nepotism which brings Sami in Test corps.
Imran Farhat’s selection doesn’t come less shocking than Sami’s Test bowling average. Hell hath no fury like a selection of Farhat back in team. It was a sigh of relief once he was rebuffed from Asia Cup but the relief has short-lived as he is back in ODI squad. This time it happened without any aid from his in-laws, who now don’t hold a chair in the selection committee. Not sure if the in-laws still had some input to offer under the table. His inclusion and snub to Hammad Azam leave Pakistan ODI team with only one all-rounder [Shahid Afridi] who can bat in late down the order.
But Shahid Afridi’s own batting form is in decline lately, imagine a plight of this team when its late order fails to get along with runs compiled by top-order or forestall a batting collapse, which has been Pakistan’s wont over the years.
There is also a notorious nephew Faisal Iqbal, who last played for Pakistan in Sydney Test 2010, selected back. He might have attracted the selectors with his 750 runs in 12 matches of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2011-12 but it distracted his caretakers as they neatly ignore the likes of Usman Salahuddin, who piled up 975 runs with average of 81.25 in 8 matches of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Division II, and riding on his QAE Trophy form amassed 426 runs (with 3 centuries) in 5 matches of Pentangular Cup where he played for Punjab.
Even a Fawad Alam or Haris Sohail, third and fourth leading run-hunters of QAE Trophy, could have been brought to the fore at the expense of Faisal Iqbal, who finds 10 run-hunters ahead of him. Alam scored a Test century on debut at an essential stage last time when Pakistan toured Sri Lanka, was dropped just 2 Tests later and wasted by ODI and T20 Cricket, which were never his traits. Haris Sohail, like Alam, could have also provided Pakistan utility of a left-hand batsman which they don’t have any in the current middle-order.
The meritorious players like Usman Salahuddin, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Rahat Ali etc have to bear the brunt of nepotism given to Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Sami and Imran Farhat. Only due to the gratuitous selections, the meritorious players have to live their lives on fringes of Pakistan squads and they get their chances only when the gratuitous selections have decayed them.
Nevertheless, selection of all new batsmen, including Afaq Raheem and Ayub Dogar – the both have been selected on merit, could only turn out to be a mere holiday trip of dog days in the Ceylon as none from the current top and middle order (Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq) looks like losing his place unless there is an injury or a dramatic batting collapse in first two Tests of Sri Lanka tour.