Test squad

For those who are unaware of the squad it is: Shoaib Malik (capt), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal, Kamran Akmal (wk), Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Sami, Abdur Rehman

One of the striking inclusions in this squad is that of Kamran Akmal, who has suffered from horrendous form lately. Was there any point in including two wicketkeepers? For any proper initial assessment of Sarfraz’s talent or further assessment of Akmal’s recovery, one would have to play either for the whole Test series, as one or two matches would not be enough. That is why I am astounded by the inclusion of both ‘keepers. Perhaps the selectors and the captain were of the view that Sarfraz is too inexperienced to handle the Test matches, but that also does not make much sense as most youngsters are inexperienced before they make their debut. Although Sarfraz is only 20, Akmal was also 20 when he made his debut.
What may be the strategy of the team management is playing Akmal for the first Test to see whether he looks comfortable with his keeping. But looking at Akmal’s atrocious form recently, I am of opinion that is it imprudent to hope that he will improve in the first Test. Dropping catches of either Ganguly, Tendulkar or Dravid may mean that India end up posting a sizeable score which Pakistan may struggle to chase.

The other questionable inclusions are that of Faisal Iqbal and Mohammad Sami (Iqbal more so). Faisal is always in good touch at domestic level but he has never impressed at international level. Sami has improved his form at domestic level and appears to be a more threatening prospect, but it will be wise to suggest that he will probably be only considered if Shoaib Akhtar suffers a fitness problem. My guess is that Malik will be keen to play both Kaneria and Rehman in all Test matches owing to the nature of slow and turning pitches in India. This means that a maximum of three specialist pacers will be employed by Malik and they are more than likely to be Akhtar, Gul and Tanvir. I would have preferred if Rao Ifthikar would have been in the squad in place of Sami but perhaps the selectors have taken into account Sami’s lively place and how that might trouble the Indians on their slow pitches.
Many people have expressed reservations regarding Kaneria. His record in India is impressive and perhaps it is recommended to include him in the Test squad since it is difficult to pick a quality spin bowler from domestic level in Pakistan, as fast bowlers appear in the limelight more regularly. Kaneria remains an attacking option mainly and for that reason I always support his inclusion in Tests.

Of the exclusions Shahid Afridi’s is most notable, although I would not deem it controversial. Afridi has many supporters who believe he should be a permanent member of the Test side. However, in my view Afridi is strictly a limited overs’ player. He lacks calmness and constructive planning, which Test cricket is all about. Although his bowling has improved over the years it is still not disciplined enough to work at Test level. Afridi is not a very accurate bowler and hence will struggle to maintain pressure on the batsmen. His batting as always is a lottery and in Test cricket what matters is certainty, calmness and planning, not gambling and taking chances.

Mohammad Asif’s absence will worry Pakistan as he is very potent against the Indian batsmen. However, perhaps Pakistan should be grateful they a proven matchwinning bowler in the form of Shoaib Akhtar.

Malik will feel tentative about playing five specialist bowlers because he seems keen on slotting Misbah at no 6. This squad features only two specialist openers, Butt and Hameed, which means that either Malik or the wicketkeeper (be it Akmal or Sarfraz) may open at some point. On the one hand Malik wants to play Misbah and on the other hand, Indian pitches may warrant the services of two specialist spinners, Kaneria and Rehman. In my opinion Hameed’s and Misbah’s inclusion may mean that Rehman has to sit out. Owing to Tanvir’s remarkable form I think it is guaranteed he will feature in all the Tests.
You are all welcome to mention your preferred playing XI’s and you can also mention what you think might be a realistic playing XI. Mine are:

Preferred:
Butt
Malik
Younis
Yousuf
Misbah
Sarfraz
Tanvir
Rehman
Akhtar
Gul
Kaneria

Realistic:
Butt
Hameed
Younis
Yousuf
Malik
Misbah
Sarfraz
Tanvir
Akhtar
Gul
Kaneria

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