A big question mark hangs over the 21-member team chosen for ODI and T-20 series against England, prior to venturing for the World Cup, a title which has remained elusive for 27 long years. Suggestions, comments and observations stem from the combination of the team picked for the coveted honour to begin on May 30. Pakistan Plays its first match against West Indies on the second day of the 10-nation tournament.
Chief selector Inzimamul Haq, indisputably was one of the finest batsman the game has seen. His stroke play, and the will to fight and survive against odds, was indomitable. Leaders like Sunil Gavaskar, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Sir Vivian Richard, Ian Chappel, Imran Khan, and the likes could well fall in that category. As selector, however, his decisions are invariably open to discussion. The 15-member contingent can be submitted to ICC by May 22. Till then Pakistan will be testing players to look for the best possible choice before the title race begins. Pakistan, leaving for England on April 23, will try its luck against England in 5 one-dayers and couple of T-20s.
The 15 for World Cup competition are: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez (subject to fitness), Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Sohail It is no doubt a young side but the bitter fact of its members being new to such big, voltage drama, should never be lost sight of. Fakhar zaman has been failing for almost a year. Other important questions are as to who will be the sheet anchor Like Mushtaq Mohammad, Javed Miandad, or Asif Iqbal. Such players have left indelible imprint on pages of Pakistan and world cricket history..
The answer is quite frank and simple. None except Haris Sohail. Openers continue to be a problem despite quick-in-succession series against NewZealand, South Africa and Australia, where except for few, rest of those picked the nerve shattering contest will have to show their worth. Imamul Haq has been consistent in all the last three series. Haris Sohail impressed by his fighting capabilities, and has the ability and toughness to withstand pressure. He has shown in recent competitions. Two centuries, and 4 fifties. Often he pulled the team from pitfalls, and took very near to victory, but alas Shoaib Malik failed to rise to the occasion as captain in the absence of Sarfaraz.
Experience does count. Shoaib Malik and Hafeez(if fit from finger injury) do possess the quality of rescuing their sides from abysmal positions, but both Malik and Hafeez have lately been performing in fits and starts. Consistency, required for such major matches, has been completely missing for quite a while now.
A dry England can be helpful to stroke play and even help the bowlers, but whether is often dicey in England, and that would pose problems for seaming and swinging deliveries. Hafeez certain can not play moving deliveries. Anything straight on his bat, will be driven in the V comfortably, lavish strokes could well be in the waiting. Not much dissimilar is the situation with Malik. He bats well, is a fine stroke players, can help turn the table, but consistency again is a big problem for him also. Sarfaraz, winning the ICC Champions Trophy in England, is tipped to bat at number 4, but he is a morale booster at original number 6 position. Tremendous responsibility will rest on shoulders of Imamul Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam,Haris Sohail, but what after them. Brittle batting line-up crashes like house of cards, and if that happens in ten initial matches in the new format, Pakistan will be out of reckoning. God helps those who help themselves. But when there is lack of determination or will to survive, luck alone, plus follies of fielders of the rival side, will have to be relied up. That is hoping against hope.
As for Bowling attack, Pakistan has a fine pace-spin attack. Junaid Khan, Fahem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, comprising the pace battery, is quite capable of taking the winds out of opposition sails, Emad Wasim, and Shadab Khan are reliable wicket takers, but Yasir Shah, was off colour throughout the season, and has correctly been left out. However ignoring new find, boyish looking Umer Khan is a real surprise. He has been a tremendous success in Dubai against Australia. True in English conditions wrist spinner are often preferred over finger spinners but Umer Khan should have been given a chance. He could have in bright sunny situations, could have been a real danger to strongest of opposition.