Saturday, May 12, 2012

Getting my head around Pakistan's three squads...

No PCB press conference is ever held without some heads turning and shouting WTF!

It all started well with Misbah stepping down from the T20 captaincy, and Zaka Ashraf announcing Mohammad Hafeez as the new captain of Pakistan's T20 team.

Well played by the PCB and Misbah in ensuring that it happened the right way with Misbah "stepping down" and not being pushed out.

I won't deny that I was rooting for Afridi to take over the captaincy once again but I guess the selectors wanted to look ahead at the future. With Hafeez taking over the T20 captaincy, he is also being set up for taking over the leadership in all 3 formats of the game once Misbah moves on. Which will definitely happen in the next year or two at most.

It is up to Hafeez now to demonstrate his leadership potential, which all of us have heard of, and make that role of captain in all three formats his very own going forward.

Till now, all was well and good. But then came the announcements of the three squads.

There were stories going around that the PCB, selectors, and coaching staff were contemplating going for three different teams. And go for different they did.

The only common theme in all three squads is that each squad comprises of 16 players, and only 4 players are present in all 3 squads: Mohammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, and MOHAMMAD SAMI !!!

Great that he's made a comeback, but man how does one pacer go from being out of favour for so long to being in favour for all 3 formats. Something that only 3 regular international players have managed.

The selectors made a number of changes with some new faces being introduced, several players earning a comeback, and a few being dropped. Its a bit of a khichdi really, a total hotch potch.

I don't mean to undermine the PCB selectors. I'm sure it was hard work, and I'm sure that long hours were spent discussing the composition of the T20, ODI, and Test squads. But I really don't remember the last time when so many players made a comeback to the team at the same time!

T20 SQUAD
Retained: Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Malik, Hammad Azam
Dropped: Misbah Ul Haq, Awais Zia, Wahab Riaz, Asad Shafiq, Abdur Rehman, Aizaz Cheema, Adnan Akmal, Imran Farhat, Junaid Khan
Comebacks: Khalid Latif, Ahmed Shehzad, Yasir Arafat, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Sami, Nasir Jamshed
New Faces: Shakeel Ansar, Raza Hasan, Haris Sohail

This is what is called a major overhaul!

As many as 9 players have been dropped from the T20 squad that took on England. Not only is there a new captain, there are 3 new faces, and as many as 6 players making a comeback to Pakistan's T20 team.

Shoaib Malik's retention upsets me considering how he has continuously failed at the international level. But to be fair, he did seem to come back to form near the end of the T20 series against England, and he performed reasonably well in the Faysal Bank Super Eight T-20 Cup (FB T20) while leading his Sialkot Stallions to the title.

Out of the 9 players who have been dropped, Awais Zia and Asad Shafiq are questionable. He didn't set the stage on fire in his debut series against England, however he did seem to have good potential. It really doesn't make sense to drop someone after just 1 series.

Besides Khalif Latif, who was the leading run scorer in the FB T20, the other comebacks do not really make sense to me.

I am a big supporter of Ahmed Shehzad and I think he is a future Pakistan opener, however unless the Bangladesh Premier League was part of the selection criteria, there is no basis for Shehzad's return. Other batsmen, namely Imran Nazir, Asad Shafiq, and Shahzaib Hasan scored more runs in the FB T20. Moreover, Imran Nazir and Shahzaib had decent outings in the BPL as well.

Yasir Arafat, Sohail Tanvir, and Mohammad Sami have done nothing of note in domestic T20 competitions to warrant a comeback into the team. Sami was outstanding in the BPL, Tanvir was a star in the South African T20 competition, and Arafat has been a consistent performer in the English county scene; but if foreign competitions are criteria for selection then the selectors need to make that clear.

Despite the comebacks being questionable, the three new faces in the T20 team are all well deserved. Haris Sohail and Shakeel Ansar, both from the Sialkot Stallions were among the top 5 run scorers in the FB T20.

Shakeel has been picked as the wicket keeper, and his century, which was the only one in the FB T20, showed that he can bat. Even though his first class and List A record does not leave much to be desired, his T20 record is impressive. But he is 33 years old so the selectors aren't exactly looking at a future prospect here.

Haris Sohail performed consistently for the Stallions in the FB T20, and has been a solid performer at the domestic level for the last 5 years. He has an exemplary first class record averaging close to 47, while his T20 record, with an average over a 100 is phenomenal. At 23, he is definitely one for the future.

Raza Hasan has been on the fringes of national selection for quite some time now, and the 19 year old left arm spinner is also considered as the long term first choice spinner for Pakistan's ODI and test squads. He has displaced Abdur Rehman in the T20 team and with time he will get promoted to the other formats as well if he puts up impressive performances in international cricket. His call to the national team could not have been better timed with him finishing at the top of the wicket taking tally in the FB T20.

The PCB selectors have picked a young T20 team, obviously keeping the World T20 in mind, however it is largely inexperienced as well.

It will be interesting to see the combination they go in with considering the team has as many as 5 openers in Hafeez, Jamshed, Shehzad, Latif, and Shakeel.

My XI: 1. Ahmed Shehzad 2. Shakeel Ansar 3. Mohammad Hafeez 4. Umar Akmal 5. Haris Sohail 6. Hammad Azam 7. Shahid Afridi 8. Umar Gul 9. Mohammad Sami 10. Saeed Ajmal 11. Raza Hasan

ODI SQUAD
Retained: Misbah-ul Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Asad Shafiq, Aizaz Cheema, Azhar Ali
Dropped: Hammad Azam, Wahab Riaz
Comebacks: Imran Farhat, Mohammad Sami 
New Faces: Rahat Ali

By in large, Pakistan's ODI squad is what it was in the Asia Cup and the series against England prior to that, with just a few changes, which really do not make much sense.

Wahab Riaz has hardly been played by Pakistan in recent times, but he's always been considered as good potential, but suddenly he finds himself out of favour. The person replacing him is Mohammad Sami, who once again did not do much in last season's List A cricket in the domestic scene.

Imran Farhat's inclusion and Hammad Azam's exclusion is completely nonsensical! Farhat was dropped for the Asia Cup on the back of repeated poor performances and yet he comes back for the series against Sri Lanka. On what basis!?

And poor Hammad Azam. Every chance that he has got, he has shown his potential. With Pakistan missing genuine allrounders, Hammad is one player who can be groomed to fill in the gap left open by Abdul Razzaq, and which would be left even more widely open in a few years once Afridi hangs up his boots.

Yet the selectors have gone with an ODI squad without him.

Rahat Ali must have impressed Dave Whatmore and the selectors during the fast bowlers camp that was recently held. He also had an impressive first class season picking up 61 wickets at an average of 19 finishing the season as one of the leading wicket takers.

But that was first class cricket, which should get him place in the test team, not List A cricket!

My XI: 1. Mohammad Hafeez 2. Nasir Jamshed 3. Younis Khan 4. Umar Akmal 5. Misbah Ul Haq 6. Shahid Afridi 7. Sarfraz Ahmed 8. Umar Gul 9. Mohammad Sami 10. Saeed Ajmal 11. Aizaz Cheema


TEST SQUAD
Retained: Misbah-ul Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Junaid Khan, Aizaz Cheema
Dropped: Umar Akmal, Imran Farhat, Mohammad Talha, Wahab Riaz
Comebacks: Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Sami 
New Faces: Afaq Raheem, Ayub Dogar

With the way Pakistan's test team has performed over the past 18 months, there really was no need for any changes to the test squad, yet the selectors thought otherwise.

But why drop Umar Akmal, who is the future of Pakistan's batting? Sure he has not been part of the starting XI in tests with Asad Shafiq being preferred over him, but Umar's presence in the squad as the reserve batsman is imperative to his development as a player.

Faisal Iqbal makes a comeback based on his recent impressive domestic performance, which was one of his most successful seasons with 1013 runs at an average of 53.3. Faisal's 5 centuries during the past season were second only to Usman Salahuddin's 7, and the last time Faisal came into the Pakistan team on the back of so many centuries, he scored another one against India in Karachi.

However The likes of Fawad Alam (1062 runs ar 64.5), Haris Sohail (1184 runs at 49.33), and Yasir Hameed (1124 runs at 46.8) would be disappointed at being overlooked in favor of Faisal Iqbal.

But the man who would be most disappointed is Usman Salahuddin. With 1401 first class runs, he was the second highest run scorer in the past domestic season, and his average of 77.8 is a good 15 runs more than the next best average during the season. Moreover, no one scored as many first class hundreds as Usman did during the 2011-12 home season.

Yet he finds himself on the sidelines, while Afaq Raheem and Ayub Dogar make the squad for the first time ever.

Afaq Raheem was the the only one who scored more first class runs than Usman did during the past season, with 1420 runs at an average of 54.6, but he also played 6 more innings than Usman did. There is no doubt that Raheem deserves his places in the squad on the back of his domestic performance, but I believe even Usman does.

Considering that Usman is only 21, he should be considered as one for the future, especially over the likes of Ayub Dogar, who despite being the 3rd highest run scorer behing Raheem and Usman, is 32 and not really one that Pakistan can build their test future around.

This is the only format where I think Mohammad Sami deserves to make a comeback. His 56 first class wickets at an average of 16.6 not only resulted in one of his best ever domestic seasons, but also ensured that he was the best experience fast bowler on the domestic circuit during the past one year.

But he doesn't take international wickets! A bowling average of 50 is hardly one to be proud of, but I really hope that Sami can set his record right going forward. This will surely be his last chance.

My XI: 1. Mohammad Hafeez 2. Taufeeq Umar 3. Azhar Ali 4. Younis Khan 5. Misbah Ul Haq 6. Asad Shafiq 7. Adnan Akmal 8. Umar Gul 9. Mohammad Sami 10. Abdur Rehman 11. Saeed Ajmal

Make your pitch on this post...



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4 Pitched:

  1. JehanJ said...
     

    One thing that surprised me most about this selection was picking sami in all 3 formats. You seemed to be critical of his inclusion in your article, yet at the same time u have picked him in your final xi for all 3 formats. That seemed a little contradictory. Other than that, great analysis! More importantly what is your take on the team's prospects in SL?

  2. Q said...
     

    I was surprised at Sami's inclusion in all 3 squads.. and critical if his selection in the T20s and ODIs cos he has done nothing of note. The test squad is understandable as I said cos he was one of the leading bowlers at home this past season.

    And the reason I pick him in the XIs is cos there is no other choice.. My XIs are based on the squads, and there are no pace spearheads besides Sami and Gul..

    As for the team's prospects in Lanka, I think we are the superior test team and will probably win the series..

    The ODIs and T20s will be more fiercely contested.

  3. Fayez said...
     

    This is too many changes for me to absorb. But Sami? Sami takes wickets in domestic because not too many domestic batsmen can handle 150K+. But then he fails in international because speed is all he has (no seam or swing). We should have learnt this lesson by now. The problem is that our selectors only look at statistics. They don't go watch matches. They don't analyze why the player failed at the international level and bring him back in only if he fixes those weaknesses.

  4. Maaz said...
     

    I'd go for

    T20

    Mohammad Hafeez ©
    Ahmed Shehzad
    Khalid Latif
    Umar Akmal (WK)
    Shoaib Malik
    Hammad Azam
    Shahid Afridi
    Yasir Arafat
    Umar Gul
    Saeed Ajmal
    Raza Hasan

    ODIs – same as Asia Cup (Hammad’s exclusion=diabolical)

    Mohammad Hafeez
    Nasir Jamshed (replaced by Azhar if fails)
    Younis Khan (replaced by Azhar if fails)
    Misbah ul Haq ©
    Umar Akmal
    Safraz Ahmed (WK)
    Shahid Afridi
    Umar Gul
    Abdur Rehman
    Saeed Ajmal
    Aizaz Cheema

    Tests – set in stone team as we’ve had for the last 7 series

    Mohammad Hafeez
    Taufeeq Umar
    Azhar Ali
    Younis Khan
    Misbah ul Haq ©
    Asad Shafiq
    Adnan Akmal (WK)
    Abdur Rehman
    Saeed Ajmal
    Umar Gul
    Aizaz Cheema

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