Selecting the selected

February 23, 2014

Selecting the selected

Right! The League of Extraordinary Experienced has made a comeback. I would have thought that after the limited overs matches in South Africa and Champions Trophy last year, even the influencers for Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik would have found new avenues. Can’t blame people like Azhar Khan and Saleem Jaffer who probably sign on the dotted line; maybe when it’s blank.

For them to argue on basis of merit is like the tiny state of Lichtenstein setting the monetary policy of the European Union.

I think it’s useless to argue against selection of someone who couldn’t explain how 90,000 pound sterling landed in his account in UK and another who has thrice escaped deeper review, even an indirect accusation of not taking off the bails by a team coach in a taped committee meeting. That was some three years ago. The Disciplinary Committee of PCB eventually gave them a green signal without any logical explanation from them and so they continued to score their single digit innings and passing time in the field, barring a rare contribution.

This should lay bare the fact that recent (and consistent) failures are no hindrance to being selected again.

So Sarfraz Ahmed hit a blazing 40-plus and set the tone for one of the greatest chase in Test cricket and quickest for a 300-plus target. When it comes to the nature of the game where quick runs are needed, he’s seen as no good.

Last time they (reluctantly) took him to Bangladesh he was primarily responsible for Pakistan winning the Asia Cup. But the PCB (let’s not blame the selectors who really have not much to do with selection) has totally ignored that match winning innings that put the total out of reach of Bangladesh.

Let me quote a neutral Siddarth Ravindran who reported on that game for Cricinfo: "Aizaz Cheema’s bowling at the death and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed’s career-high, unbeaten 46, after walking in at No 8 played a huge role in separating the sides."

He concluded his report thus: "When Afridi’s typically manic cameo came to a close in the 42nd over, Pakistan were seven down and looked unlikely to last the full stretch. It was down to Sarfraz to lift Pakistan from what seemed a sub-200 score, which even their world-class attack would have had little chance of defending, to a more competitive one."

And indeed it was so. Pakistan were 178-7 when Afridi went and yet they finished with 236 with Sarfraz playing with maturity and intelligence for his 46 not out off 52 balls.

That Pakistan eventually won the final by 2 runs rams home the point that the IMC missed completely.

Najam Sethi has time and again mooted merit as the only criteria but merit has been swished away from under his nose and he has no idea.

Perhaps out of sight is out of mind since he wasn’t the PCB chairman on the day when Pakistan won the third Test against Sri Lanka on the last day.

When they don’t want him they refer to a one-off tournament and then quote a performance some two years back after a gap of two years to bring back "experience".

It’s now clear that the "keeper supporting mafia" is too strong and in fact wants to make no bones about it. "Yes we are and here we will stay" seems to be their mantra.

It seems the worst thing a wicketkeeper can do is score a match-winning innings. How dare he?

The law of probability says that they should get some runs after three major flops and that will get them another three years. It’s a lose-lose situation for Pakistan.

I pity Umar Akmal. He is being used just to keep Sarfraz out. To ask him to keep wickets for 50 overs in the humid conditions of Bangladesh if Pakistan field first and then expect him to play a match-winning innings is absolutely criminal.

It is strange that Fawad Alam has been brought in. Fawad should be tried in Tests. His limited overs talent is, well, limited.

Once again Shoaib comes back into the team because there is no one else. And they quote his experience as an asset. Well, he was selected on exactly that measure for the World T20 2012 in Sri Lanka, for the Champions Trophy last summer and for the limited overs series against South Africa in the UAE.

Very rarely has an "experienced" batsman played the sort of shots he did and flopped as pathetically as he did in all three. He was more of a liability than an asset. Yet he’s back.

Hammad Azam was another one who served well in the previous Asia Cup. He came in at 70-4 and when he was out some 10 overs later Pakistan were 129-5. He had scored 30 off 37 balls with three fours and a six. Then he bowled not all that badly and conceded only as many runs per over as Umar Gul and Aizaz Cheema.

The penance for both Sarfraz and Hammad after that Asia Cup final two years back was isolation. Two young men who had played a crucial part in Pakistan’s triumph against odds were dumped.

Sarfraz has proven his point but Hammad has been totally cut out and Shoaib has been preferred over him for the last two years.

Selecting the selected