New Zealand 2009 December 2, 2009

Forget two, one opener required

Pakistan's bowlers almost pick themselves but the batsmen are a different matter altogether: nobody seems to know who to pick

Bring back Misbah © Associated Press
After the setback in Dunedin, Pakistan will regret two decisions. The first was Mohammad Yousuf's defensive option to bowl first, which forced his team to chase a tricky total on an unpredictable final-day wicket. The second was the team selection.

Pakistan's bowlers almost pick themselves but the batsmen are a different matter altogether: nobody seems to know who to pick. You might have expected that Pakistan's salaried selectors had a sufficient level of expertise to be sure of most, if not all, of Pakistan's top six? That isn't the case, and disturbingly the top three positions are in a constant state of indecisive flux.

What to do, especially as Khurram Manzoor and Imran Farhat looked out of their depth and the next match at Wellington could be even more difficult for Pakistan's batsmen? These two unfortunates should make way for Salman Butt, a proven Test opener, and Misbah-ul Haq, a proven rallier of the late order with a career to revive.

It also seems unfair, almost negligent to throw Fawad Alam in at No. 3 when Shoaib Malik and Yousuf are in the ranks. As a senior player, Malik needs to be in the top three. Yousuf is unlikely to shift from his preferred position. Pakistan's paucity of opening options also means that Kamran Akmal might have to be a temporary solution again.

But this top-order nonsense really does have to end. When Younis Khan is back he will take No. 3 but Pakistan's best opening combination is unknown. Pakistan should be looking ahead to the tour of Australia. To enter that tour without at least one settled opener will be suicidal. Again, with the options available Butt has to be that man.

Young, inexperienced, our out-of-form players are usually best inducted one at a time in top-level sport. Pakistan throw in all these varieties in one go and hope for the best, which is exactly what the fans are left to do thanks to their team's inexplicable selection policy.

With Shane Bond out, Pakistan have every chance of winning this second Test but they must back their most proven performers and those with the soundest techniques.

The bowlers and the Akmal brothers deserve better.

Thanks to everybody who tweeted during the final day's play last week. I'll also be intermittently tweeting on the second Test:

The tweet of last week was by buya_kasha in the middle of Pakistan's final-innings collapse: "We should be playing the whole Akmal family including their maids."

Lose in Wellington and it might be worth a try.

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