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Limited Thinking – Cricket

Posted on 16 January 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 1,574

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For a cricket board that is crying hoarse that it is being bled to death financially, it is quite strange that they have gone for a 17-man team (if you don’t include Imran Nazir going specifically for a three-hour event at the end) to play five ODIs. He should go down as a bigger specialist in his field than the best heart surgeon out there is in his.

We have lined up 17 players for one Twenty20 match coming five days after the end of the ODI series, which means six players will be warming poolside for six days, for after the ODIs it’ll be quite clear who the playing eleven for the solitary bash will be.

The gap between the vision of Australia and Pakistan’s cricket selection is evidenced by the fact that the hosts have literally announced their playing elevens for the first and second ODIs. Normally, it is the prerogative of the host side to have the luxury to choose from the entire talent available right up to a couple of days before the match.

If he was in mind for the ODI series, Fawad Alam would have cost more or less the same if he had stayed back in the team hotel when equated to a return Business Class ticket. And considering Khurram Manzoor wasn’t, he should have been the one to return. Before the Sydney Test, it was not expected that Misbah and Faisal would both fail to warrant Khurram’s inclusion also. Malik would have been the preferred choice anyway if one was being expected to fail, so why hold back Khurram? He did nothing exceptional in New Zealand to be saved up for the fallback role and, as expected, could not cope with the bounce being alien to such all his playing life.

Fawad had got 170 as an opener on his Test debut a few weeks ago and would have stepped into the No.3 position if required.

Sami was sent to lead the seam attack, otherwise why else would he be there? Yet he didn’t play in the first and even the third after taking three top wickets on opening day at Sydney. Richie Benaud summed up the ridiculous omission by asking if he was unfit. For probably the most astute reader of the game alive today, it was unthinkable that Sami wasn’t playing in seaming conditions and on a lively pitch.

Now he’s not in the ODI side. So why wasn’t he sent home on the morning of the third Test match if he was not in the plans for the ODI series?

At the end of my column in Dawn last week, I had suggested that Pakistan play with all four fast bowlers and ask Aamer to bat at No.6 instead of Misbah. If Malik was to be played at all it should have been at No.3 whether he likes it or not. I said this not just because of the maturity and technique that Aamer has shown, but also because in New Zealand he ended up with a batting average higher than Misbah and Malik, and three times the average of Khurram!

Younis Khan has been a far valuable Test batsman and in the past two years has struggled to have a desirable strike rate in the shorter game of any length. But he was held back from the last two Tests when the Pakistani batsmen had just not shown the potential for a big innings in either one of them. The reason was that he had to play himself back into form. Following 29 runs in four lackluster single figure innings against second eleven bowlers on the local scene, he is now suddenly cleared to face the Australian attack on home ground against which Yousuf has a current average of 31 from five innings (down to 23 if that one knock of 61 is taken out).

Rao Iftikhar should go into the Guinness Book of World Records as the most frequent bench warmer on tours. I think he’s sat out something like 20 ODIs in the last 18 months, despite being in the team. Yet if played, he should prove a vital cog. Would you believe that in ODIs he has the best economy rate among all fast bowlers in the squad except for Asif, over which he nevertheless enjoys a better strike rate?

There will be other accidental tourists and Pakistan could well have worked with a squad of 15. Considering Yousuf, Younis, Afridi, Farhat, Butt and Umar Akmal will play no matter what happens in the first two ODIs, we are carrying Khalid Latif, Fawad Alam and Shoaib Malik for the other three. They will only come in (and not all at the same time) if these six batsmen don’t do well in which case we would likely be 2-0 down and unlikely to win the rubber. So what’s the purpose of having them play the last one or two games? Having said that, I don’t see Butt and Farhat being separated after ODI-style starts in the Tests. So it’s improbable these other three will get a foot into the field, especially if Kamran is available in both capacities.

Lastly, I wonder how Yousuf will cope with more imaginative captaincy and tactics at a far faster rate than in Tests. And shouldn’t Intikhab morally stand down as coach in the Twenty20 match on Feb 5 considering he feels that is the bane of all Pakistan’s batsmen?

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