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December 16, 2009

New Zealand 2009

Three reasons unknown

Kamran Abbasi


What was the thinking behind recalling Mohammad Sami? © Cricinfo Ltd
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Pakistan escaped with a drawn Test and drawn series. When rain intervened in Napier, Mohammad Yousuf's side were looking ragged, their captain nervous. The bowling line of attack and the field placings didn't inspire confidence. Yousuf and his team weren't responding well to the pressure of defending a lowish total on a placid wicket. For me, this was the most fascinating and revealing passage of play in a rivetingTest series. Pity then that New Zealand fans stayed away, an extraordinary failure of marketing or sporting culture.

Indeed, the whole contest was tightly fought and utterly enthralling, in large part thanks to the inconsistencies and poor performances exhibited by both teams. But there was also heroism, from Bond, O'Brien, and Vettori for New Zealand. While Pakistan were grateful to their 'A' list: the Akmals, Asif, and Aamer. Danish Kaneria promised better days too, but he had a rather poor final day like all of Pakistan's bowlers.

Importantly, Yousuf displayed a new determination to struggle and grind out an innings when in the past he would have wafted his wicket away. His captaincy and tactics, though, did raise some concerns. Generally, Yousuf was a defensive captain, risk averse, safety first. His bowling changes seemed sensible but the field placings seldom did. In his defence, although it is a lame one, Yousuf is an inexperienced captain and with Pakistan's recent record a drawn series is a small triumph.

Australia, of course, will be a much tougher challenge, despite their own rebuilding process. Nonetheless, Pakistan's ambitions will be built on their bowling attack, which is good enough to surprise Australia. But whichever way you look at it, the batting line-up is threadbare. When your batting mostly relies on a nineteen-year-old in his first Test series, you know you have cracks too deep to paper over.

Pakistan supporters will stay loyal to their team and will continue to enjoy watching their progress but the bafflement with Pakistan's decision-makers grows on a daily basis. What happens in Pakistan cricket happens for reasons unknown, without logic or consistency, and here are three examples:

1 The return of Mohammad Sami. In the wilderness, out of sight out of mind, no recent international preparation to speak of, Pakistan's once-great hope returns for another chance to ride into the Test arena. Why has Sami been recalled? On what basis? What happened to the pace bowlers on the fringe of international selection in recent months? All discarded at a stroke, a selection strategy abandoned. Good luck to Sami but the logic applied for his recall could easily be applied to include Yasir Hameed, for example, to strengthen the batting.

2 The absence of Younis Khan. The story goes that Younis has gone underground. Rather than hiding out in an underground tunnel in Waziristan or on a fishing boat in the Indian Ocean, Younis emerges at a cricket coaching course in Lahore. It's obvious to most sentient beings that Pakistan's batting is too fragile and lacks experience. Why so quickly rule out an experienced and successful Test player, who also happens to be your current national captain? The rush to exclude Younis was indecent and a direct contradiction to what Mr Butt and Younis were both insisting on only days before.

3 The lottery of selection. I saw a television interview with Iqbal Qasim, Pakistan's occasionally successful spin bowler and now chairman of selectors. Qasim was asked why he wasn't attending the Test series as he was supposed to do. His reply was that he was only part-time and that watching a full five days on his own wasn't a good use of his time. The selection system was revamped to attract professionals. It seems to attract people who have better things to do. How hard can it be to find a former senior Pakistan cricketer willing to do everything they can do to get the selection right, including even watching a match?

Why this angst? This is a chance to beat Australia if destiny's kind, yet Pakistan appear reluctant to take it--for reasons unknown.

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Kamil on (December 27, 2009, 13:07 GMT)

Can someone please explain to me why Umar Gul is excluded fromt the first 11. He is fit and he is a wicket-taking bowler, hence he deserves to be part of the first eleven.

Posted by A.R.Zaidi on (December 27, 2009, 11:44 GMT)

Look at the game after 2nd day's play at MCG and the main culprit once again is Mohammad Yousaf. He got out in the last over when he should have carefully dispose it off. I agree a thousand times with u that he is a very defensive captain. Why did he enter the match with only 4 regular bowlers and what were the credentials of Abdul Raoof? WHY DID HE DROP DANISH kANERIA AND WHY OMAR GUL WAS EXCLUDED? This was poor selection by all standards. He is a great batsman but not a great leader so Pakistan by the end of day 2 is looking for ways to save the test match. May be Yousaf would be looking to the skies because there were lots of rains in Melbourne before the test match. Now everything is depending on Omar and Kamran Akmal as in my view, Misbah is once again a very bad choice for selection in a test match being played in Australia. If Pakistan loses the game, sole responsibility will be on captain and captain only.

Posted by najeeb on (December 27, 2009, 0:39 GMT)

Reason why younis is not playing...Well I got a chance to travel with him from dubai to manchester a month back, and my friend and I were talking to him while we were waiting for the boarding passes and he told us that 4 players do not want to play under him :( Although he is keen to play, but if FOUR players are just not happy with the captain and not part of the team, then whats the point having them in the team?? Pakistan never ben short of talent! we have problems in finding a captain rather than finding players! reason is this kachra politics.

Posted by AKBAR BAADSHAH on (December 27, 2009, 0:11 GMT)

Why isn't shahid afridi playing in the tests against australia. he can be chosen just for his bowling!!! he is better than imran farhat.

Posted by Gulab on (December 26, 2009, 14:35 GMT)

Yes yours comments to bring Sami is very important. A month before one of my freiend told me about his observation that there is lobby working in Pakistan to remove Pashtun from top position in beaurocracy or govt. Being a pakistani I was not beleiving. But due to exclusion of Umar Gul I realised the same. I think removal of Younas and now Umar Gul seems to be the steps to avoid Pashtun although they have many scrifieses for Pakistan. I could not understand the exclusion of Gul and this is the reason I am thinking like my friend. It seems that NWFP and Balochistan are not acceptable to the rest of Pakistan.

Posted by Anu on (December 22, 2009, 7:04 GMT)

As long as the players do not take catches, the chances of winning will be quite dismal. And I think Misbah is still out of form, so Fawad Alam should take his place- he is the best fielder in the side and a useful all-rounder as well. But not as an opener, but as a middle-order batsman as this is his right position. And please, NO Shoaib Malik now, he is past his prime.

Posted by TS on (December 22, 2009, 3:22 GMT)

You sir, are a champion. Your knowledge in unsurpassed, your insight is always correct. Only the enlightened know that what true pakistani cricket fans want to hear is another pakistani giving his lounge room pessimistic oppinions of pakistani cricket. There have been lesser people in the past who tried to maybe offer support to their nation, their team, but they like I said were lesser men.

Only the brave go out and consistently degrade their team. Those people, like yourself are champions.

With God's will, we shall all one day become like the great man you are.

Posted by majid yaseen on (December 21, 2009, 23:51 GMT)

Very brief. I would like to include these players in Pakistan Cricket team to get better result; 1. Imran Farhat 2. Salman Butt 3. Younus Khan/Yasir Hameed 4. Mohammad Yousuf 5. Umar Akmal 6. Shahid Afridi(Captain) 7. Kamran Akmal 8. Mohd Amer 9. Umar Gul 10. Mohammad Asif 11. Danish Kaneria 12. Abdul Rauf 13. Abdul Razzaq 14. Tanveer ahmed

Bowling Coach: Waqar Younus Fielding and Batting Coach: Ijaz Ahmad

if PCB can give rest to Intikhab Alam, that would be great.

Posted by Nauman Rupani on (December 21, 2009, 22:59 GMT)

It will be really if Sami gets selected ahead of Rauf.However,with a long tour & more fixtures lined up next year,I think the pace trio will need breaks(through fatigue or injuries).Sami,on any given day is better team member than Akhtar.Younis Khan should only be allowed to WIN his place back in the side.Jury should be outon him,Misbah & Malik after every series,YK is just too fragile emotionally and the latter 2 are past their prime.If we can afford to risk & fail,we should experiment with youngsters who can stick for a 8-10 yrs.Fawad Alam must get a long run,just axe Faisal Iqbal.The batting should be: -2 openers(any Pakistani qualifies) -Yousuf -Akmal -Fawad(both can switch b/w 4th & 5th based on their comfort), -Experiments (Misbah/Malik/youngsters/Afridi) Yousuf must bat one-down. All teams have their top batsman bat early: Ponting,KP,Sachin,Dhoni, Gayle all take the challenge, come early and impose their authority.

Posted by mohsin ali on (December 21, 2009, 19:02 GMT)

droping younis from team is good for pakistani team because he is not a match winning batsan.we can,t rely on him.salman butt shoula also be dropped and yasir hameed should be given chance. misbah should be given chance for this series only.there is no need of fawad he can even hit the ball.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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