The PCB administration got changed and shortly after, Malik was sacked as captain. A new captain was appointed and all eyes were on how the relationship between the assertive captain Younis and Chief Selector Qadir would be.
Most people were quite curious about the point of having a warm up game between Afridi’s Patrons XI team and the Sri Lanka team. Some thought this was just a test to see if Afridi could contribute with the bat and make a place for himself in the test squad. Others, after watching the innings of Ahmed Shahzad and Azhar Ali, thought that this was an excuse to showcase the talent of these two players so that one of them could be included. Afridi played a decent knock with the bat that should have justified his inclusion in the Test squad, if his batting was the concern of the selectors. He did not get a wicket but only 3 of his regular bowlers did. If his batting was not a concern, then his place should have been guaranteed anyway, because he has been in form as regards his bowling. This is not to defend Afridi per se; it just boggles the mind why he was
even chosen to captain in the warm up match if the selectors were expecting him to score a century?
Ahmed Shahzad, after his knock of 146, was chosen from the warm up squad and it is over Shahzad’s selection that apparently Younis and Qadir had a disagreement. Shehzad’s inclusion is certainly controversial, not least because Nasir Jamshed, who is a more consistent batsman, has been left out by the selectors and also because Shahzad was not even in the list of 22 probables that were proposed by Qadir a week ago. Shahzad is known to be a confident and clean striker of the ball, however he lacks the consistency of other openers like Nasir Jamshed and Khurram Manzoor. Manzoor has been the best opener in domestic cricket for a number of years now whereas Nasir Jamshed has been a top batsman for over a year.
That leads to the question of whether Manzoor is likely to open along with Butt. Manzoor is an experienced opener at domestic level but so far in ODI’s he has appeared to be a mixed package. Whereas he has been gifted with the ability to stay at his crease, his shot selection appears very limited and he appears very restricted to his back foot. Today it was reported that Younis and Qadir might toy with the idea of opening with Malik and playing Asim Kamal and Faisal Iqbal in the middle order.
It is rumoured that Younis is not a great believer in young talent. On various TV shows
Younis has stressed the need to have more mature players in the side. That is the reason why there were reports that he might want to try out Faisal Iqbal or Asim Kamal instead of Fawad Alam, and why he might want to persist with Kamran Akmal
instead of Sarfraz Ahmed. It is unclear who has been behind the controversial selections of Faisal, Asim and Akmal, but they are certainly selections that should not have been. With all the respect in the world to Asim Kamal, his recent domestic performances have not been anything to write home about. Plus, Fawad Alam’s unbelievable run at domestic level should automatically disqualify Kamal from international selection. Faisal Iqbal is a strange case, he is different to Bazid Khan because unlike Khan, he always makes some good scores in tournaments and he shows some good technique at times, but he lacks consistency. It is very sad that more deserving players are being deprived because of Miandad’s nepotism.
On the bowling front, the situation is clearer. Akhtar is unfit so Gul was always the strike bowler. Tanvir, despite his brilliant performance in his last first class match, was overlooked to the benefit of Mohammad Talha. Talha has been the most devastating bowler in the Q&A Trophy and it would have been criminal to ignore him from this squad. Kaneria was always Pakistan’s first choice spinner and he now needs to hope that Akmal gives him some support behind the stumps.
My preferred XI for the 1st Test now that Nasir Jamshed is not in the team:
Butt, Manzoor, Malik, Younis, Misbah, Fawad, Akmal, Gul, S Khan, Talha, Kaneria