Asif Zakir's series of superb performances failed to earn him a place in the squad for New Zealand tour and then Australia, too
Look at the following figures: 128, 127, 9, 32, 200 not out, 99, 29, 75, 105. These are the performances of Asif Zakir, who plays for Sui Southern Gas Company, in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. But this series of superb performances failed to earn him a place in the squad for New Zealand tour and then Australia, too.
Ignoring Asif Zakir for the series against Australia is a surprising decision. He is a prolific batsman and has been in great form in recent years. If domestic cricket had any significance for the selectors, they should have chosen him.
He was the highest scorer in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2015-16 with 791 runs at an average of over 56 runs. He scored three centuries and four fifties.
Asif was also phenomenal in the National One-Day Cup in January this year as he scored back-to-back centuries against Peshawar and Islamabad.
What is the point of holding such tournaments if the players performing well in them are not to be considered for the national team?
In the series against England Lions early this year in the UAE he scored a match-winning innings of 68 not out.
While dropping Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal from the team some time back, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said they would have to earn their places in the team back by scoring in domestic cricket. When performing well in domestic cricket is the criterion, why is Asif being ignored time and again?
Asif has been playing first-class cricket since 2002-03 and scoring consistently. He has 20 centuries and 31 half centuries in his 122-match first class career. He scored 117 in the one-day cup semi-final in 2013 and 170 off just 135 balls in the final.
Some people might say that Asif is 33 years old but Misbah-ul-Haq is 42 and has reportedly been asked to keep playing till 2018. He might turn out to be another Misbah for us who made his debut at age 26, but cemented his place in the team only in 2010 at age 36, and went on to become one of the most successful batsmen for Pakistan. When he was dropped for the England tour of 2010, he reportedly said he felt like burning his cricket gear. Asif Zakir may have the same feeling right now.
It is time the selectors did justice with this player and provided him enough opportunities to prove his mettle. Asif Zakir deserves to be picked for the national team, in both Test and one-day squad. And he should not suffer the fate that Shahid Anwar and Imran Abbas did. Shahid played an ODI in 1996 and was never considered again despite scoring 37. Imran played two ODIs in 2000 and was dropped forever although he was among the highest scorers in the country’s domestic season along with Younis Khan.
In recent years, Pakistan have failed to produce world class cricketers. Some fear that the reason could be a lack of talent. However, it is more likely that we are not picking the right players for national duty.