Published today in The News October 19, 2014
PCB COUNTS THE CASUALTIES
A look at the 19 probables announced by the PCB for the Test series shows clearly the scope of what has gone horribly wrong over the past few weeks. It is was bad enough off the field with the handling of the Saeed Ajmal ban and controversies over the non selection of Younis Khan.
But the development over the past two weeks that the Pakistani pace attack will not feature Irfan, Junaid and Wahab Riaz is disheartening for the fans following a pathetic performance in the limited over games since October 5. But even though the injuries cannot be blamed on the head coach, manager or selectors, other casualty figures in the area of leadership and selection of the final XI fall flat into the appraisal of these managers of Team Pakistan.
Worse of course was allowing Misbah to sit out the final ODI, if it is to be believed that it was solely his decision and that no direct or indirect pressure was put on him to drop himself.
I feel the responsibility goes to the coach and the tour selection committee. If he had come up with this crazy idea of taking responsibility and being worried over his form, it was the job of the coach Waqar Younis to motivate him to carry on. Look at Alistair Cook who has had a devastating run of form over the last year entirely but stands up to be counted. Misbah has had one bad series before these twin failures–and has been run out some 3-4 times during this phase—and hey, it’s time for a rethink??
Considering that it is widely held that the coaching team and selectors seem to believe Misbah is not the right man for the job, and that his place in the ODI side is not entirely justified, they must have jumped at the opportunity to push Afridi to take up the vacant slot for the third ODI. That in my view is not professional, knowing that it’s the last game of the series and Misbah is far too mature and mentally strong not to let another failure affect his preparation for the coming Tests against Australia and New Zealand.
A more demanding coach would also have worried about the impact this decision would have on not just the playing eleven but the overall team. It indicates that the captain is weak and is questioning his place in the side. No motivational trainer would have allowed his student to let that happen under his watch. This shows that team was not the priority here but egos were.
That his position in the batting order was taken by Fawad Alam who has been more out of touch with strokeplay than Misbah during this series is laughable. If the answer to Younis Khan’s and Misbah’s slow pace of run scoring are Asad Shafiq and Fawad Alam, then something is far more seriously wrong in the think tank than imagined when the team for the first ODI was selected.
To come back to the Test side, I see Hafeez is back after it was announced that he would be out for three weeks. This lends credence to the theory I expounded in these columns in first week of this month that it looks a set up to me. And that it was planned to keep him out of the ODIs for fear of him being called for throwing in international cricket, following the CLT20 charge. My other understanding was that with him in his usual pitiable self while batting the push to get him back his Test place would have been weakened by another failure, something quite likely given he would have been facing Johnson & Co.
So now he is back with that covering memo that it is subject to his fitness. If it is true that he suffered that serious injury to the webbing of his hand, how can he be considered given the hand injury will also be a barrier to stop the harder hit balls, and fielding is already troubling the coaching staff? The question to ask also is how can he walk back straight into the Test side without match practice as he hasn’t played the longer version since January after he was dropped for the third test against Sri Lanka? And when his replacement, Azhar Ali, scored a match winning hundred against all odds? Certainly there is no place in the team unless they shove him back to open.
It is disappointing to again see that Fawad Alam has not been picked for the Test side when he has shown all the requisites for the longer game. His style of play is not suited for the limited over game even though he has delivered a couple of times recently in Bangladesh. But he is a walk in into a Test side given his temperament and ability to stay at the wicket. He should certainly have been chosen ahead of one of the reserve openers in the provisional squad.
But good to see Taufeeq Umar back in contention. Another good man who was dropped when he was at the top of his form (he averages almost 40 in Tests), he deserves a comeback after doing well at domestic level ever since he was harshly put aside, and at a time when Pakistan was struggling to look for openers. Good also to see Imran Khan being rewarded for a fabulous performance for Peshawar Panthers in the Haier Cup. He and the junior Imran Khan both bowled well but certainly the senior Imran has more pace.
What is absolutely hilarious and hair splitting is the selection of Ataullah from Quetta. The Bears played some entertaining cricket in the Haier T20 Cup and had some good players on show but Ataullah has played just one first class game and that was five years ago! And he didn’t bowl in it! On top of that his action was reported when he bowled in Karachi last month, though Moin has said it has since been cleared, which always comes with a pinch of salt for ICC. The selection is funny enough as it is without picking such men; if at all a player from Balochistan was to be included but not played, then Bismillah Khan could have been brought in who has batted well as an opener.
The selectors have nevertheless done well to keep both the left arm spinners, Zulfiqar Babar and Raza Hassan in the probables. The elder one is likely to play as Pakistan will probably attack Australia’s weakness against leg spin with Yasir Shah. What will be interesting to see is how the rookie fast medium bowlers from Pakistan do on the flatter UAE pitches under the scorching sun. Given the absence of Junaid and Irfan, Umar Gul should have been given a shot at least for the first Test. Now it seems Talha and Rahat (someone who I feel shouldn’t even be ranked in the top ten medium pacers in the country) may just open for Pakistan, though I would give Imran Khan the opportunity in place of Rahat. If we have to go in with a new bowling attack, might as well throw in a calculated gamble or two.