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August 6, 2010

2010: Summer of Pakistan

Salman's soldiers fight again

Kamran Abbasi
Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir enjoy their training session, Trent Bridge, July 28, 2010
Salman Butt faces the tough task of keeping a side in turmoil focused  © AFP
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After the fuss over Mohammad Yousuf's return, tiredness and lack of practice have ensured that Salman Butt can fight another battle with his team. It is time to stand and deliver.

Yousuf says he has been unable to practice for almost two weeks. That knowledge combined with the short gap between the first and second Tests raises further questions about the sanity of the Pakistan Cricket Board in rushing back Yousuf from his reverie.

At the toss, Salman pointed at the construction work around Edgbaston, explaining that the building work might look ugly but the finished product will be worth seeing. Nice analogy but any buliding work needs to show evidence of progress or the builders will get the boot. Any half-competent builder will also ensure that the foundations are not dodgy.

Two of the changes are understandable. Kamran Akmal still hasn't got over the problems that were dogging him on the last tour of England in 2006, which means we've endured 4 years of his uncertain form. The question is whether Zulqarnain Haider has enough quality to hold his nerve in Test cricket?

Saeed Ajmal, we know, is an exceptional performer in limited overs cricket, and now has a chance to demonstrate his ability at Test level. With Danish Kaneria's persistent ability to disappoint, Ajmal is the only option in the current squad.

The key, however, will be Pakistan's batting. No change, and particularly no return for Yasir Hameed, are a major surprise. All the top six, apart from Salman, have something to prove in Test cricket. This is not a happy situation. Pakistan's batsmen seemed unaware of the virtues of not pushing at the ball in English conditions. They are surely good enough to have learnt that lesson quickly?

However well they now perform, the needless drama of the last week has heaped further pressure on this young team. The drama, and the non-selection of Yousuf, has exposed a rift between the cricket board and the captain and coach. The euphoria of Headingley was short lived. Batting first was a sign of positive intent or perhaps a show of defiance. Salman's soldiers will require both these qualities if they are to recover from the damage inflicted over the last week.

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Posted by Shafiq Hamid on (August 9, 2010, 22:54 GMT)

From the comments the focus seems to have become ‘play the 2 Y’s or not?” – Come on guys you can’t choose a woman, date her, get married and without giving it a chance to work, suddenly decide it was a wrong choice and start looking at alternatives! It’s unfair if you don’t give it time.

Selection was done – decisions on the captain and squad finalised for the English series. You play England and get slaughtered - Change your captain and start looking at players that were not selected in the first place.

Recipe for disaster!

Afridi gone – Salam in! Now Salman isn’t really working out and the key batting positions of 3 and 4 is in trouble – So let’s send for players that were not originally considered.

You make your best decisions – deliberate every aspect before announcing the final squad. Flying in new players can only mean the selection processes and management screwed up (no surprises there!.

Completely wrong and it will come to bite us in the Butt!!

Posted by Tom on (August 9, 2010, 18:04 GMT)

I think Asim Kamal is the best player but havn't seen him for ages

Posted by Suhail Qureshi on (August 9, 2010, 15:15 GMT)

THOSE WHO HAVE FOUGHT ARE NOT SALMAN'S SOLDIERS. THEY DERVE TO BE SOLDIERS OF ANY SQUAD. Sulman soldiers are Akmal brothers and Shoaib Malik who actually handed over the game much earlier. These guys do not deserve to be in the test squad. The fight is actually fought by those whose inclusion in test squad in unquestionable. We have seen only one dropped from these four (Kamran Akmal) and fresh blood injected in his place and we can see the difference. We should give ample chance to youngster but against the palyer like shoaib, Salman Butt, Akmal brothers who have proved themselves not suitable for test arena, instead of the players of the calaber of Muhammad Yousaf and Younis Khan.

Posted by sajad habib on (August 9, 2010, 6:26 GMT)

salaam kamran bahi, i think pcb should send there six top order batsmen including captain back and bring ahmad shahzad,babar azam,azeem ghunman,younis khan,yousuf,yasir hamid,hasan raza,hammad azam,abdul razak for injured gul. ahmad shahzad who is considerd best talent in pakistan along with babar azam who can bowl also,hasan raza best captain brain in pakistan who was newer given chance as given to azhar ali,imran farhat,butt,umer amin.hamad azam best alrounder in pakistan after razak,

sajad from kashmir

Posted by asim on (August 9, 2010, 6:09 GMT)

Can someone please suggest to Waqar and co to try opening with Saeed Ajmal, crowd the openers not used to playing spin with fielders and go all out for wickets?

Posted by Mayank on (August 9, 2010, 4:28 GMT)

I am mayank from India, Apart from all the good and bad performances of pak, i am partcularly disappointed with U Akmal. He was very promising at the start but now he seems to be playing for himself.He is least bothered for the team and never plays for teams winning cause.Pak have prouced gr8 legents and if he needs to come any way close he needs to change himself. May be sacking him out like his brother will be good option as of now.

Posted by Saiful Ansari on (August 9, 2010, 3:32 GMT)

Zulqarnain played a fighting knock, ably supported by Amir & Saeed Ajmal. It was a tremendous rearguard action after the main batsmen had been dismissed & Pak was staring at a loss by an innings. Zulqarnain in his maiden test appearance played like a veteran, after the LBW decision against him on the first ball was reversed by the third umpire. He demonstrated to the top order how to fight fire with fire. He faced 200 balls & counter-attacked the Eng bowlers very aggressively. Saeed Ajmal also played a fantastic knock, taking body punches that will hurt tonight, but will be gladly forgotten if Pak can upset Eng tomorrow. The likelihood of that is very slim, but Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Today the three heroes of Pak were Zulqarnain, Amir & Saeed Ajmal. I like to pay my tributes to these gallant young soldiers of Salman for taking the fight to the opposition. For the first time the Eng Bowlers looked stressed&frustrated as our heroes refused to surrender.

Posted by Salma on (August 9, 2010, 1:40 GMT)

Pakistan might be down on rankings, short of some good batsmen and fielders BUT world of cricket will always be indebtted to them as no other nation has given so meaningfull inventions like "late swing" and "doosra" to cricket. Pakistan will come back stronger very soon. As soon as Ijaz Butt is over with his honymoon, we will be back. Look out for future names Mohammad Irfan and Naved Yasin.

Posted by Taufique Ahmed on (August 9, 2010, 0:52 GMT)

dear kamran,

Instead of sniping at Yousuf, you should be blunt about point out the spineless performance of Salman Butt and cohorts who claim themselves to be specialist batsmen. This whole bunch should hang their heads in shame and let bowelers to take their places. At least, then Pakistan will have a more variable bowling attack and hopefully will also make a few more runs.

But then this is too much to expect from this bunch, I suppose!

Posted by Naveed Anjum on (August 8, 2010, 21:15 GMT)

A.A kamran bhai my english is very poor.i read your blog first time,my advise to PCB illuminate karman akmal,umar akmal & shoaib malik team wil be going on wining track.the are root of politics in team,asim kamal,faisal iqbal & zulqarnain replac with them.

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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 international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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