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Saim Over?

To stick with Saim or to give up? This was the original title for this piece before Saim was dropped from Pakistan’s final pre-World Cup match. A temporary tweak or a sign of things to come? Honestly, not even the Pakistani dressing room knows for sure.

Touted as “potentially the next big thing in world cricket” by the likes of Michael Vaughan and Adam Gilchrist in the recent series against Australia, you’d be lying to yourself if you say Saim’s batting doesn’t excite you as a Pakistani fan. His explosive PSL debut in 2023 sold us dreams, though they haven’t fully materialised yet. I would go as far as saying Saim is the most aesthetically pleasing batter I have seen in a Pakistani jersey (my dad would probably argue it was Saeed Anwar).

Saim Ayub was dropped yesterday to make way for the OG Riz-Bar partnership in the last T20i against England, ending a 21-game run following his debut against Afghanistan in early 2023. Despite his nifty start, the trust shown by captain Babar Azam and the management has been unprecedented. The backing was such that before yesterday’s game, it almost seemed as if Saim was the only player with a guaranteed batting position.

After a stellar PSL 2024, where he was surprisingly named all-rounder of the tournament, the opening slot for the upcoming World Cup looked locked down. But, hey, this is Pakistan — we aren’t exactly known for stability. Those 345 runs at a strike rate of 157 and 8 wickets at an economy of 7.45 in the PSL were a mere glimpse of this kid’s potential. Unfortunately for him and Pakistan, he hasn’t quite managed to consistently replicate that form on the international stage.

Saim Ayub’s average of 15.05 in a green shirt is the fourth worst among all Pakistani openers since 2015. None of the other three with worse averages have played even half as many games as Saim, which speaks volumes about how the system has discarded players with better stats without giving them as many chances.

However, beyond these surface-level stats and all the pessimism, there’s still a lot to like about Saim. Amidst all the fuss about his batting, it’s easy to forget that this guy was awarded ‘All-Rounder of the Tournament’ in PSL 8 just a couple of months ago. Perhaps he can play a role similar to Sunil Narine for KKR in their recent IPL-winning campaign — early impact as an opener and economical 4 overs as a bowler.

Stats provided by Varun Alvakonda

Impressively enough, Saim had the best True Economy Rate (ER) among all Pakistani spinners in the PSL last season. It’s this kind of efficiency that Pakistan will desperately need in the Caribbean leg of the World Cup. Whatever the team plans with him, there is clearly a lot of utility. Added to his bowling, he is also among the safest hands on the ground and covers a lot of ground in the outfield.

While his international numbers might not scream consistency, his recent PSL performance and his unique all-round skill set cannot be ignored. Dropping him at this stage would be akin to throwing away a winning lottery ticket before the numbers are drawn. And although it might be a cultural shock for Pakistani cricket to be patient with its players, it’s about time we trust the process.

Trying to combine my love for Sports and Numbers.



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