The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) recently announced the 16-man squad for the upcoming away series against England and Ireland. Much to the surprise of the fans, critics and former players, Fawad Alam has again been left out of the squad.
Fawad Alam, who has scored 10,742 runs in his 145 first-class matches with an average of 55.37, was called up for the preliminary squad and was named as one of the fittest players in Pakistan.
However, despite performing in the domestic circuit and keeping his fitness in check, Fawad has failed to impress Micky Arthur and Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Since Micky Arthur took over as Pakistan cricket team’s coach, he has emphasized on fitness at every given instance. In addition, the drive to integrate young players in the national side has also played a huge part in the selection of players.
Although these are valid arguments, they are not the most logical ones.
Almost every sport in the world requires mental strength; how well do players respond to pressure situations and whether they possess the ability the justify their selection.
The current selection criteria completely eliminates the mental strength and performance factors. This is exactly where likes of Kamran Akmal, Fawad Alam and Wahab Riaz come in.
The above-mentioned players have performed tremendously well in recent times: Kamran was the highest scorer in PSL’s second edition and National T20 Cup. He followed his impeccable performances with a splendid third edition of PSL as well.
Similarly, Kamran’s teammate Wahab Riaz also helped Peshawar Zalmi reach the final of the tournament where they came up just short.
The cricket management has shifted its focus to future completely and is compromising the blend of experienced and young players. Wasim Akram, speaking about the matter, agreed and claimed that if a player is performing then PCB does not have any ground not to select him.
Four Openers, Three Matches
Selection of young players is a step towards the right direction from the PCB. However, selecting young players for the sake of it makes as much sense as not selecting them at all.
The current 16-man squad traveling to play three Test matches against England and Ireland includes four openers; Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam, Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman.
According to Sarfraz, Azhar Ali will be opening for Pakistan since “he knows the conditions very well, he likes to play on bouncy tracks and has scored tons of runs here before.”
Three players will contest for the other opening spot in the three Test matches, which isn’t a logical decision either considering Pakistan is lacking middle-order batsmen depth — where perhaps Fawad Alam could have been useful. It’s also not possible to play all three openers in the three matches as that would mean require Pakistan to field a new oening pair in each match.
Merit Selection? Hardly!
The public crucification of Wahab Riaz and Kamran Akmal by Micky Arthur was an indication that PCB will not compromise on its merits. However, that has been far from the reality.
In an interview, Micky said that Wahab has “not won us [Pakistan] a single game” whereas Kamran is “unfit to be included in the team.”
The comments, as vicious as they were, do not hold up when you look at the players who are actually selected in Pakistan’s squad instead.
The captain himself — Sarfraz Ahmed — is struggling for fitness. In the recent fitness test conducted by PCB, Sarfraz had the lowest points, along with Sami Aslam, and was on the brink of being labeled as “physically unfit.”
Similarly, if quality performances are to be ignored just because they did not help the team to win then Asad Shafiq’s selection should also be put under the microscope. Asad, for the argument’s sake, has struggled whenever Pakistan have registered a Test win since 2015. However, does this mean his performances such as the remarkable 137 vs. Australia at the Gabba should be forgotten because it did not guide Pakistan towards victory? Of course not.
Speaking more about the strange selection process, Wasim Akram took Fawad Alam’s example and said:
Players play domestic circuit in view of getting an opportunity to play international cricket. I cant understand why Fawad is not getting an opportunity, he is still out from the squad despite scoring runs in domestic on an average of 50 in the last three-four years. It’s beyond me.
Pakistan’s performances in recent times have been praiseworthy, which is why fans have overlooked the fact that players who have performed in PSL — a T20 tournament — have been selected in Test match squad, which is rather shocking, to say the least.
The Pakistani team requires a blend of experienced and young players while putting extra emphasis on players’ recent performances along with their mental strength.