LAHORE - Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Wednesday announced squad for this month's Asia Cup that would be followed by the World Twenty20, defying all the logics and requisites to be considered to select a national side for a big event.
The current PCB hierarchy through its selection policies has made it an open secret that backdoor is open for those who have hidden hands’ blessings and performances do not matter more and not the only criteria for representing the country at the highest level.
PCB’s selection committees in the recent regimes of two powerful decision-makers, Shaharyar Khan and Najam Sethi, have left no stone unturned to keep mocking the merit and destroying the very foundation of the Pakistan cricket through their dubious and ambiguous decisions, which are being fully endorsed by these two.
A few weeks ago, the PCB high-ups including its chief and chief selector have vowed to end experimentation after the humiliation at the hands of England in limited overs series in United Arab Emirates. Ironically, for the most prestigious event, the World Cup, five uncapped players made their way into the squad.
The most curious cases are of Khurram Manzoor and Iftikhar Ahmed. Manzoor forced his way into the squad as opener in place of Ahmed Shehzad, who faced axe after a series of poor run of form. The 24-year-old Shehzad managed just 33 runs in Pakistan's 2-1 Twenty20 series loss in New Zealand last month and is one of four changes selectors made from the last tour.
Manzoor, who has played 16 Test matches and seven ODIs, has not played for Pakistan in any format since August 2014. His last selection to Pakistan's limited-overs teams came more than six years ago, in 2009 against Sri Lanka. He scored 309 runs at 28.09 in the domestic T20 competition last year and was not selected by any of the five teams in the ongoing Pakistan Super League. His selection remains the most contentious among the 15-man World T20 squad.
It has been reported that, head coach Waqar Younis has serious concerns over Manzoor's selection, and that the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan has been unhappy with the chief selector Haroon Rasheed and has sounded out at least one former cricketer to take his place.
The other contenders for the opening slot were Sharjeel Khan and Kamran Akmal but the selectors, after the input of captain Shahid Afridi, preferred Manzoor. Kamran AKmal is continuously performing in the domestic circuit in all three formats and was declared the best batsman for the recently concluded National One Day Cup for being the highest run-scorer. Pakistan do not have an alternate wicketkeeper in their squad now other than part timer Umar Akmal as wicket-keeper batsman M Rizwan also dropped for poor form. Sarfraz Ahmed remained the top wicket keeping choice for Pakistan for quite sometimes. But it is no secret that he struggles behind the wickets as is evident in the Pakistan Super League matches and is yet to translate his scintillating Test form in limited overs versions. A flamboyant opener wicket keeper in shape of Kamran Akmal could have been an appropriate option to replace Shahzad rather than outsider like Manzoor. But may be danger he posed to Sarfraz a reason that some quarters do not want him back in the team .
Another curious case is of Iftikhar Ahmed, who first found a way to become the part of one day team and now selected for the T20 squad. He has proved the biggest disappointment so far at the international level including his outings against England Lions in the UAE and also has a modest domestic career so far. His continuous inclusion and stay in the national team is the ominous murder of merit and malicious intents of the people at the helm.
Also out are Sohaib Maqsood, paceman Umar Gul, the second highest wicket-taker in the shortest format and all-rounder Sohail Tanveer, Pakistan’s leading wicket taker in T20s previous year. Left-arm paceman Rumman Raees and left-arm spinning allrounder Mohammad Nawaz were also rewarded for their showings at domestic level. The 21-year old Nawaz, picked up 10 wickets in the Under-19 World Cup in 2012 in Australia, has been a standout player with both bat and ball in the PSL, where he is currently the top wicket-taker with eight wickets in four matches and showed good form with the bat as well.
Also returned to the squad is lanky paceman M Irfan, rested for the Twenty20 series in New Zealand, making a four-pronged pace attack with all left-handers, with the sole right arm bowler coming in the shape of medium pacer Anwar Ali.
Chief selector Haroon Rasheed said the squad was selected after considering the conditions in Asia Cup hosts Bangladesh and India, where the World Twenty20 will be staged.
"While picking the squad, the team management and skipper were consulted by the selectors, and all concerned gave their consent in this regard," Rasheed said. "The T20 team has been selected keeping in mind the conditions and the recent performances of some players in domestic and A team tours. The team is a fine blend of experience and youth and the selectors believe that team will do well in both tournaments."
But at the same time, the so-called chief selector, who was a regular feature as great cricket analysts on all TV channels before taking up this role, failed to find and include a genuine spinner for these conditions. Instead, Pakistan have six fast and medium pacers in the squad. For spinning options, Pakistan banked on allrounders Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim and new face Nawaz.
The Asia Cup will be played from February 24-March 6 followed by the World Twenty20 from March 8-April 3 and the results may not be much different from the 50-over formats of these events as the PCB has decided to totally destroy the cricket and cricketers of the country.
SQUAD: Shahid Afridi (capt), M Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, M Irfan, Wahab Riaz, M Amir, M Nawaz, Khurram Manzoor and Rumman Raees.