Pakistan team selectors have made a smart move by picking a fresh squad for the one day and T20 matches to tour the West Indies later this monthBy excluding old horses like Younis Khan, Misbahul Haq, Abdul Razzaq and Kamran Akmal they have paved the way for the next set of players in order to rebuild the house for the next World Cup.
It was a decision that had to be made and there’s no better time to groom younger players than now. If we can unearth another Umar Akmal, perhaps find another exciting fast bowler and a decent wicket keeper we may have a shot at winning the next World Cup.
The exiting players have contributed to Pakistan cricket in many ways, and while I thank them for giving us some memorable moments, it is time for them to step aside.
Here are the new additions:
Dont be deceived by his name, he has all the masculine characteristics of a fast bowler on the verge of breaking through the ranks. This 21-year-old left arm quickie from Chakwal has made strides in domestic cricket. This past season, in 11 first-class matches, he was the leading wicket taker with 64 scalps at an average of 16.12, with eight five wicket hauls and two 10-wicket hauls ! Ravi Shastri was spot on when he said “they shake a tree in Pakistan and talented fast bowlers fall like leaves.”
The 20-year-old right hander from Lahore has had a brilliant first season in domestic cricket.
In 24 matches, he piled on the runs at an average of 41.80 in 24, scoring five hundreds and eight fifties in the process. In his interview, he is ecstatic about being given the chance to represent Pakistan and believes strongly in his ability especially after scoring a brilliant 141 against Khan Research Labs who boast the best bowling attack in domestic cricket.
The much hyped tall left-arm bowler from Abbotabad was a part of Pakistan’s 2011 World Cup squad. He has done remarkably well for the past two years in domestic cricket. In 35 matches, he has 167 wickets, an average of 21. Khan’s record tells us it’s a stiff competition if one wants the fast bowler’s job on the Pakistan national team.
Azam is an exciting all-rounder, tipped to take over Razzaq’s role in the team. The right hander has done well representing Pakistan in U-19 competitions. Azam has only played 14 first class matches, in which he has a batting average of 29.85 with a strike rate of 55, along with 16 wickets at an average of 25. Though the numbers are not as impressive as the praises, many see immense potential in the young fellow. He is one to watch out for in the future.
Salman is the new wicketkeeper (thank god!) and not another Akmal. Though, young Adnan Akmal showed excellent finesse with the gloves, Rashid Latif has called Salman “technically, the best wicket keeper in Pakistan”. And given the stunning glove work Latif used to do with the stumps, who can doubt his words?
Almost 30-years-old now, right-handed Karachi native Salman will make his debut in the Caribbean later this month. His batting average of 26.63 in 103 first class games doesn’t suggest an ace with the bat. But given the headaches and heartaches Kamran Akmal gave us with his shoddy glove work, we ought to settle for anyone who can hold onto catches behind the stumps.
Earlier, I wrote about Shehzad after his sensational hundred against New Zealand in Hamilton. His record in domestic cricket speaks for itself. Though the young man wilted under the pressure of World Cup matches, his abilities and shots are there for everyone to see. With the help of a much needed batting coach who can help him (and others) strengthen his mental game, he is sure to come good for Pakistan in due time.
Also returning to the one day arena is Taufeeq Umar, the old warrior. I have always thought Taufeeq was one of our better openers, who was hard done by selectors in the past. His inclusion in the squad brings in some experience at the top.
Wahab ‘Viki’ Riaz will be leading the bowling attack after Umar Gul has asked to be rested for the one day series. While I hope Gul makes a speedy return, Wahab has the chance to enjoy the responsibility as the fast bowling ace for Pakistan. If he can develop that elusive in-swinger, he will be twice as threatening as he is right now.
It is important to remember that the majority of these new faces are still quite young and inexperienced. This is what makes Pakistan cricket so exciting: bringing in kids off the streets who dazzle the world with their skills.
They will make mistakes and occasionally succumb to pressure, but it is important that we notice the potential talent in each of these individuals.
We must persist with the ones who have a natural sting in their game and have the ability to handle pressure. It is the feeling of confidence when backed by fans and pundits alike that often helps them perform to the best of their abilities. Responsibility on Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq’s young shoulders has doubled; they will have to play a more mature innings from here on.
It is good to see the Pakistan cricket management take a proactive step towards developing young players to be ready for the next World Cup.