Pakistan squad for cricket tour to Zimbabwe balanced

The cricket board have gone with some promising young players, but need to try play them for a longer period of time before dropping them.
The Pakistan Cricket Board announced a relatively settled squad for the upcoming series against Zimbabwe a few days ago, despite the tour offering the potential for a youthful side.

One suspects the state of flux that has come to define Pakistan cricket will have served to negate such experimentation.

Pakistan have been renowned for introducing somewhat unproven talent at an early age and adherence to such a mantra is a brave one for the selection committee as many of the players lack a significant domestic record to adjudge their suitability for international cricket.

On closer examination of the squad it appears the selection committee has not deviated from the traditional policy in any discernible way. The fast bowling attack is to be spearheaded by the young left-armer, Junaid Khan, with Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul being rested. The perceived conservative selection policy for the tour then is limited to the batting, which is understandable given the travails in recent times.

This, coupled with the overall lack of cricket Pakistan are playing means any tour, whether major or minor, will be utilised to chisel out a settled batting unit. It is a prudent policy given the current set of players: Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal are relative novices themselves.

It was but 12 months ago Pakistan selected those three players and Umar Amin to face England in an away series, without the protection and guidance offered by the experienced Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf, who were ignored for the series. Such is the impatience of fans nowadays; frustrations develop when rookies are not selected to replace only slightly more experienced players.

Amin, who eventually made way for Yousuf in that England series, has not been seen in internationals since, and serves as a reminder that the selection of youngsters is not the endgame but the beginning of a long-term process.

Maintaining a core of focused players may well be the primary aim of the selectors, and it would be difficult to make a case against such a thought process.

It is not a completely stagnant squad, either. There are a couple of exciting additions, with Rameez Raja being selected on the back of a series of high-intensity domestic Twenty20 performances. The hope will be to see him play some matches as too many times we see young players included in a squad and subsequently discarded despite not having received the opportunity to exhibit their skills.

The omissions of Hammad Azam and Usman Salahuddin are examples of this - neither player did anything wrong on the tour of the West Indies but missed out. Hammad is one who, no doubt, continues to register on the selectors' radar and was an integral part of the team that won the T20 tournament. Adnan Akmal also deserved his recall, after he was bafflingly dropped despite equalling the record for catches taken by a wicketkeeper in an innings against New Zealand.

The issue that is most striking is the return of the prodigal son, or rather, son-in-law, Imran Farhat, who has found vociferous support in the form of his father-in-law, Mohammad Ilyas, who also happens to be a selector.

Farhat's selection could be justified in cricketing terms - he has been one of the form players in domestic cricket this year. However, to consider his recent domestic performances in a vacuum, isolating any thoughts of his visible deterioration as an international player, severely reduces the credibility of an already-maligned selection committee in many fans' eyes.

A review of the selection process was a key recommendation made by a task team set up by the International Cricket Council, the world's governing body, and such selections only lend credence to their arguments.

With that argument, we return to the underlying point - have the selectors managed to maintain the balance of youth and experience, given the broader context of issues facing Pakistani cricket?

The answer is yes. Well, all except for one name, anyway.

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Published: August 1, 2011 04:00 AM


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