World Cup 2007 December 16, 2006

You could pick the squad now

Pakistan must ensure that their confidence is not eroded by the seamer friendly wickets of South Africa

Pakistan dealt West Indies an important psychological blow before the teams meet again to launch next year's World Cup. Between now and then awaits South Africa and a very different series to the one just concluded or the crucial tournament that will follow. Pakistan must ensure that the confidence that they have recaptured is not eroded by the seamer-friendly wickets of South Africa.

The machinations of this year have left Pakistan with a far stronger pool of bowlers to choose from and some clearer possibilities around the opening slot, their weakest area. These factors combined with Bob Woolmer's local knowledge should give Pakistan a good chance of being competitive in South Africa and perhaps even overturning their poor record in that country.

But before that can happen it is imperative that the PCB confirms that both Inzamam and Woolmer will lead these two upcoming campaigns. Pakistan have a real opportunity to win the biggest one-day prize and any dithering now will be detrimental to their challenge.

Despite WADA's posturing, both Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif will be available next year and that leaves Pakistan with an unimagined selection problem. Umar Gul, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, and Mohammad Sami--yes the bowler who couldn't bowl two balls on the same spot--have all made indisputable cases for selection. As has Abdur Rehman, who has been nothing short of sensational in this series. At Karachi, on a wicket that favoured batsmen, he bowled an intelligent line, even keeping Brian Lara in check. That fills six places.

Among the batsmen, Yasir Hameed has shown enough to earn a place along with Mohammad Hafeez. Follow those with the inevitable selections of Pakistan's middle-order trio of Inzamam, Younis Khan, and Mohammad Yousuf and you have five more places with people's names on them.

Among the allrounders, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, and Kamran Akmal--providing he continues to rebuild his confidence in South Africa--are virtual certainties, which builds the squad to 14.

That only leaves one place, and you can see why Woolmer is claiming that the squad selection is becoming clearer, although this final spot might prove controversial. Imran Farhat, Faisal Iqbal, and Danish Kaneria, to name but a few, will be saying their prayers. Who will win a trip to the Caribbean? It could be any of those three but it might be a wild card, and Pakistan has no wilder card than Shahid Afridi. He'd win my vote--as you all know--and I suspect he might even win the vote of the selectors.

Much can happen, of course, between this December speculation and the reality of next March but barring major upheavals I wouldn't bet on Pakistan's World Cup squad being much different to this. It is a squad of experience but also enough youth to hunger for success. The bowling riches are the team's strength and the batting should not be found wanting on the Asian wickets of the West Indies. The rest is all mind games. Over to you Bob and Inzi.

I don't usually post comments that include team XIs or squads but since that is what this article is about then feel free to speculate.

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