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April 21, 2019

Astonishing omission


April 21, 2019

Making a winning combination for a mega event like World Cup is always a difficult task for the selectors. Last Thursday, chief selector Inzamam- ul-Haq announced Pakistan team. The Champions Trophy hero Mohammad Amir missed the bus due to his poor form. Since the Champions Trophy final, unfortunately, he has taken only five wickets in One-day Internationals at a high average of 92.60. He bowled over 100 overs for the five wickets. It is the worst performance from any leading bowler who has bowled over 100 overs in last two years. Before the ban, Amir averaged 24.00 in ODIs.

Since his comeback in 2016, he has averaged 39.17. In 36 ODIs since his return, he has conceded 1371 runs and taken just 35 wickets without any fourwicket haul. He took 12 wickets in nine ODIs in 2016. Next year he played 12matches and took 18 wickets, but in 2018 he took only three wickets in 10 appearances, averaging over 100. This year, he has taken only two wickets in four ODIs, averaging 80.50. Earlier this month, in a press conference, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur declared that there would be no compromise on the level of fitness for theWorld Cup. He affirmed that senior players were fit and ready to participate in the mega event.

But when the team was announced, Mohammad Rizwan, the fittest player, was left out. In the National Cricket Academy, Lahore, Rizwan scored highest 20 points in the YoYo test. Opener Shan Masood bagged 19 points, while skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and Amir scored 18 points. Rizwan had proved his talent in the five-match ODI series against Australia last month. He was Pakistan’s second highest run-getter with two centuries. His wicketkeeping skills are also unquestionable. Rizwan has played 32 ODIs for Pakistan in which he scored 705 runs at a reasonable average of 33.57. Selectors must be questioned regarding the exclusion of such a talented player. If half-fit Imad Wasim and injured Mohamamd Hafeez can be included, Rizwan also deserves a chance, not only as a batsman but as also as backup wicketkeeper.

Inzamam admitted that a little favour was given to Imad as despite failing the fitness test he was selected for the World Cup squad due to his consistent performance, especially in England. Rizwan made his ODI debut against Bangladesh in 2015 and scored a brave 67 off 58 balls in a losing game. Pakistan need a specialist wicketkeeper as a back-up of Sarfraz. In themega event, Pakistan can’t afford a part-time keeper as every game is important to qualify for the semi-finals. Rizwan’s case is like that of Fawad Alam, who scored over 11,000 runs in first class cricket and has averaged over 40 in both ODIs and Tests matches. He has never been a permanent member of the national squad.

Sarfraz Ahmed and Haris Sohail are the only two players who were part of the team in 2015 World Cup. Muhammad Hafeez and Junaid Khan were also part of the initial squad but missed the event due to injuries. This time too, Hafeez is injured on the eve of the mega event. Over half the teamthatwon the Champions Trophy has been retained, with Sarfraz, (captain), Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hassan Ali, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Shoaib Malik. Fakhar, Imam and Abid Ali have been selected for the opening positions. It will be the first World Cup for all three.

The middle-order looks good enough to tackle any bowling attack with the presence of Babar, Haris, Shoaib and Hafeez. The fast bowling attack consisting of Hassan, Junaid, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasnain seems a bit inexperienced, but spinners Shadab and Imad can create troubles for the opponents as they did in the Champions Trophy. Skipper Sarfraz and Fahim provide middle-order a strong support. The luckiest player of the squad is young fast bowler Hasnain, who has played just three ODIs — against Australia last month in which he took two wickets, averaging 78. But he has been selected for his Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2019 performance. He has good pace and variation. Pakistan will play their first World Cup match againstWest Indies at Trent Bridge on May 31, after playing warm-up matches against Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

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