Wednesday, February 11, 2009

PCB Selectors Spring a Surprise

Its been a while since Pakistan has played test cricket.

Quite a while.

14 months to be exact.

They played none in 2008 for more reasons than one.

The drought is about to break though as Sri Lanka come back to Pakistan for 2 tests.

A test series involving 2 games has never made sense to me. But in these times, even a series of 1 test match would make sense.

So thank you Sri Lanka.

The selectors yesterday announced a list of 22 probables for the test matches, which will be trimmed to 14 or 15 after a short training camp.

I am not sure what the reaction of the general public is regarding the 22 probables but I was surprisingly pleased.

For once the selectors came up with a list of players, within which I did not have a single objection.

Nor did I think that some deserving player had been left out.

I'm not sure whether I should be pleased with Abdul Qadir, the chief selector, or the newly appointed Pakistan skipper, Younis Khan.

We are well aware that Younis asked for a say in selection, though how involved he was in selecting the 22, I'm not too sure.

Either way, a job well done.

Lets take a look at the list.

Openers: Salman Butt, Khurram Manzoor, Nasir Jamshed.

Salman Butt has been Pakistan's 1st choice opener for some time now and he deserves to be. He has had several successful seasons in both ODIs and Tests.

However, his partner has been the subject of much debate.

The last time Pakistan played test cricket, Yasir Hameed opened with Salman, not with much success though.

Since then Pakistan have tried Nasir Jamshed and Khurram Manzoor in ODIs, both of whom have registered decent performances.

Nasir seemed to have established himself as Salman's partner before an injury gave Khurram a chance who grabbed it with both hands. Though I prefer Nasir at the top as he is more aggressive and had a wider range of strokes than Khurram, but the latter has been in fine touch this first class season.

Khurram is one the leading run scorers this season and he was among the leading batsmen last season as well.

Its good that the selectors are keeping both Nasir and Khurram in mind. In my view, either one will make an able partner for Salman.

Middle Order: Younis Khan, Misbah Ul Haq, Shoaib Malik, Asim Kamal, Faisal Iqbal, Saeed Bin Nasir, Fawad Alam, Bazid Khan

8 batsmen, 4 batting spots, 2 taken.

Thats the story of Pakistan's middle order.

Besides Younis Khan and Misbah, none of the other batsmen can be garanteed a spot in the top 6. Plus with Yousuf out of the picture, its quite a task for the selectors and the captain to fill the gap.

Before Shoaib Malik became captain, he was still trying to cement a place in Pakistan's test team, and not in the middle order but as an opener. Bob Woolmer believed in Malik's ability as a test opener as did Inzamam.

Malik had a successful stint as Pakistan's test opener with several good knocks, however, once he became captain he dumped opening for a place in the already crammed middle order.

Though Malik has been a valuable player in the shorter version of the game, he still has a long way to go to establish himself as a test player.

Faisal Iqbal has been a regular feature in Pakistan's test team and he was long considered as Inzamam's replacement in the middle order. Faisal has a string of good scores in the tests he has played including a match saving 50 in the last test Pakistan played.

However, he has been going through a rough time in domestic games and hasn't played any international cricket since that test match as he is not a regular on the ODI front. Its a good thing the selectors did not forget about him.

Asim Kamal has been on the wrong side of many selectorial blunders. His test record proves that he should have been a permanent fixture for test matches, however why he was dropped despite a string of good scores is beyond me. Recalling Kamal is probably the best decision this selection committee has made.

Fawad Alam has been a regular feature in Pakistan's ODI squad but he hasn't got enough chances to prove himself. For 4 first class seasons now, Fawad has time and again proved his worth as a capable middle order batsman.

Fawad averages more than the likes of Younis, Misbah, and Yousuf in first class cricket and his tour with academy to Kenya and Zimbabwe last season proved his abilities as a reliable middle order bat.

He faces tough competition for a spot in the middle order, however, for me he should be the first one to be pencilled in.

Saeed Bin Nasir and Bazid Khan have been rewarded for being consistent at the domestic level. Both batsmen have more than one successful domestic season behind them and provide able replacements if any of the above are unavailable.

Wicketkeepers: Kamran Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed

Kamran's batting has time and again come to his rescue. I will be the first one to admit that he has played many match saving and match winning knocks for Pakistan in test cricket, hence it has been difficult to drop him despite his troubles behind the stumps.

However, if he is persisted with then the likes of Kaneria and Afridi will leave every match with 2-3 wickets less than they should have had.

Its time for change and Sarfraz Ahmed's recent batting form suggests that he will be upto the task for Pakistan. For his form behind the stumps, there is no comparison - he is leaps and bounds ahead of all keepers in Pakistan.

Spinners: Danish Kaneria, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi

I believe Afridi can be a valuable addition to Pakistan's test team. I have more faith in his wicket taking abilities than Kaneria's, but Kaneria for a long time has been Pakistan's number 1 spinner.

No matter how much I would like to see Afridi play test cricket, I don't see it happening.

Kaneria has been weighed under a lot of expectations. With the premier fast bowlers suffering from a variety of problems, Kaneria has had to bear a huge burden.

He has not exactly let down people, but he hasn't done as well as had been promised by him or of him.

Ajmal remains a potent option for ODIs and a decent back up for the tests.

Fast bowlers: Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Sohail Khan, Abdul Rauf, Mohammad Talha, Yasir Arafat

Pakistan's pace bowling looks weak without Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, however these 6 are the best pace options available to Pakistan.

Its going to be a tough task for Younis Khan in his first assignment as full time captain of Pakistan.

Finding an opening partner for Salman, filling in the gaps in the middle order left open by Inzamam and Yousuf, blooding a new keeper, and choosing your first choice pacers is going to be one hell of a task.

And this only gets you the 11 for the game. Leading them on the field, making plans for the Lankans, and executing them will be quite a job.

I don't have high expectations and I would urge the Pakistan public not to have many either.

Consider this as the start of a new age and be ready to see a new look Pakistan team take the field. Give them time and they may get you the results. If you don't, they may never get enough chances to get you the results.

My Test XI: 1. Salman Butt 2. Khurram Manzoor / Nasir Jamshed 3. Younis Khan 4. Misbah Ul Haq 5. Asim Kamal / Faisal Iqbal 6. Fawad Alam 7. Sarfraz Ahmed 8. Sohail Tanvir 9. Umar Gul 10. Danish Kaneria 11. Sohail Khan

Make your pitch on this post...



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23 Pitched:

  1. Homer said...
     

    Q,
    I am glad there is someone else out there that thinks Asim Kamal has been given a raw deal by the selectors and is just as elated as I am to see him back in the team.

    Cheers,

  2. Q said...
     

    Glad someone else knows who Asim Kamal is Homer :-)

  3. Homer said...
     

    Q,

    Pakistan has a funny way of rewarding its players.. In the mid 90s, I loved Md Wasim, especially after Pakistan won the CUB series in Australia..

    Pakistan dropped him.

    Then Misbah Ul Haq became a favorite. Pakistan dropped him.

    I like the way Asim Kamal shaped up against India in 04. And he was gone without a trace.

    The Pakistani selectors seem hell bent on punishing me, so I stopped backing players.

    Cheers,

  4. Q said...
     

    Pakistan's selectors have strange ways of functioning.. they have a favourite every season when they forget the previous one..

    All 3 u mentioned were at the receiving end of bad selection decisions..

    Some in Pakistan even say that Misbah and Asim Kamal never became regulars while Inzi was around because some official once mentioned to Inzi that both of them were as good as he was...

    Inzi and Yousuf, despite being the mainstays of Paks batting line up for a decade, also kept many a talent out of the team...

  5. Som said...
     

    The stumper's choice is certainly the most difficult one. You can't dismiss Akmal's batting like you can't overlook his dismal keeping. Akmal is capable of making a handy contribution with the bat. But he is even more capable of dropping sitters. I would love to believe that the frontline batsmen would be able to take care of the runs and it would not hinge on Akmal's batting. Like Q, Sarfraz gets my vote as well.

  6. raj said...
     

    Q, Asim Kamal is an unfortunate cricketer. I remember him tormenting India in 200. I think in both home and away series, he excelled. Then he disappeared without warning. His misfortune is so much that even though I remembered this batsman who did so well in 2004, I couldnt remember his name recently. Out of sight, out of mind.
    Glad to see him back in the mix.
    Younis-Misbah-Asim has a good ring to it as a middle order.

  7. Naked Cricket said...
     

    Q, Be grt, really, if you could change BCC! on yr BLOGROLL to www.boredcricketcrazyindians.com
    yawns, nc

  8. Naked Cricket said...
      This comment has been removed by the author.
  9. Wasim said...
     

    Q

    Can you please check and inform me if you can access my site.

  10. Abdul said...
     

    Excellent analysis on the selection dilema.

    My preferred team is as follows :

    Salman Butt
    Shoiab Malik
    Younis Khan
    Mohammed Yousuf
    Misbah Ul Huq
    Asim Kamal
    Kamran Akmarl
    Sohail Tanvir
    Umar Gul
    Sohail Khan
    Kaneria

  11. Q said...
     

    Agreed Som.. hopefully the 7th batter will only be required to build on the work the top 6 have done and not to bail them out..

  12. Q said...
     

    Raj, it does have a good ring to it.. hopefully they can give Pakistan what Younis-Yousuf-Inzamam did...

  13. Q said...
     

    NC will do that right away..

  14. Q said...
     

    Its working fine Wasim and I love the new look..

  15. Q said...
     

    Abdul, why r u sticking to akmal? and why Malik as opener?

  16. Wasim said...
     

    Kamran Akmal has to go, Nasir Jamshed and Fawad Alam should come in, but the difficult choice would be of the pace bowlers, Tanvir is out of form he should be replaced by Sohail Khan and Talha or Yasir Arafat should be the third bowler.

  17. Q said...
     

    Wasim, I wonder why the selectors didnt go for Mohd. Aamer .. he looks better to me than Talha..

    Yasir Arafat took a 5-for in his first test 15 months ago.. I think he shud be a starter.. Since the ODI series against SL, Tanvir has comeback strongly in domestic matches... including a 15 wicket haul..

    I agree on Nasir and Fawad..

  18. Wasim said...
     

    Q My latest post is about Aamer his econ rate & average is way better than Talha, I think they just selected Talha for the camp only for practice, Aamer is much better he has a deadly swinging yorker just like Wasim just a bit slower than Talha though but has far more control and accuracy.

    Q Tanvir's 1 match performance cannot against a lowly domestic team cannot be regarded as his recovery to form, he has lost speed and accuracy. He was consistently bowling in Low 120's in the ODI series. I would prefer Sohail Khan in his place.

    I agree with you On Yasir he will be a good option.

  19. karachi khatmal said...
     

    firstly, let me join the celebrations on the return of asim kamal - with MYK as captain pakistan seems to be actually doing things that make rational sense - but to be fair, i had also thought malik would be a good captain, so what do i know.

    akmal has to get dropped, if not for any other reason than the fact that pakistan should not be carrying passengers at this stage of our cricketing lives. we have nothing to lose anyways, so why not give new people a chance?

    however, in complete contradiction to that above line of thinking, maybe we could tinker with malik and butt as openers...

    Butt
    Malik
    MYK
    Misbah
    Asim Kamal
    Shahid Afridi/Fawad Alam
    Sarfraz Ahmed
    Umar Gul
    Sohail Tanvir
    Mohd Aamer
    Danish Kaneria

    Its probably the best bowling attack we can muster, plus the batting has a little bit of stability and plenty of explosive power. also, i haven't seen him bowl, but if aamer is even a shade of what wasim bhai was, i say bring him on man. we have to.

    God bless you Q for exhorting this fickle nation not to have high hopes for this series - i think we only get excited about cricket so that we can trash it when it all goes down.

  20. Anonymous said...
     

    why is shoaib akhtar not playing? what's the latest that he's done - another run-in with the establishment or just plain old fitness issues?

  21. Q said...
     

    Ur right abt Aamer Wasim.. He needs to be blooded soon..

    I think Sohail Tnavir's batting gives him an advantage though if Yasir is there then he's also a good enough batsman.. so Gul, Yasir and Sohail Khan can work..

  22. Q said...
     

    Anonymous Shoaib has the knee injuries.. first the docs said that he needed surgeries for some floating pieces in his knees.. then he got advice from Aus and Eng and docs there said that surgery is not required and physiotherapy will be enough..

    So now he's trying to recover and hoping to return for the ODIs againt Bang..

  23. Q said...
     

    I like that team Khi Khatmal.. There seem to be many people proposing Malik to open.. I doubt he will but its a good option and allows for an extra allrounder at number 6..

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