Middle order December 11, 2006

Pakistan's virgin middle-order

Kamran Abbasi makes a case for a revamped Pakistan middle order

It might have seemed unthinkable that Pakistan would be without any of their holy middle-order but it will happen in Multan. Injury, illness, and bereavement have conspired to rob Pakistan of Inzamam-ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan. While those three should rest assured about their World Cup chances, the situation has started to hot up for anybody below them in the pecking order--and that means everybody.

The fourth one-dayer will be an expedition into virgin territory for Pakistan, which explains why Shoaib Akhtar is nowehere to be seen. Shorn of their Titans, Pakistan will showcase a new middle-order and a new captain.

On the captaincy front, Abdul Razzaq appears to be the next in line by dint of hierarchy and his momentary elevation to the vice-captaincy prior to the Champions Trophy. Some observers question Razzaq's place in the team but there should be no doubt about Razzaq's value as a giant-hitting middle-order batsman and a safe but unspectacular bowler in one-day cricket; it's in Test cricket that Razzaq's place is in serious danger. Yet there has been scant evidence of Razzaq's ability as a captain. The other obvious contender would be Shoaib Malik, and there was once talk of Afridi as a future captain.

The performance of Pakistan's middle-order will be the most fascinating aspect of the fourth one-dayer. Yasir Hameed deserves an opportunity and might make an ideal number three. The logic of Faisal Iqbal's selection is that he would play too. And I would slot in Afridi in place of Rao Iftikhar.

With their players on form Pakistan have mind-boggling options but when those same players misfire it can all look a desperate shambles. Any match without Inzamam, Yousuf, and Younis will be a real test for Pakistan's young team. Who will seize the opportunity to show some leadership?

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here