April 11, 2003

Some points of disagreement with Rashid Latif

Adeel Javed

Over the last eight years, anyone who has followed Pakistan's cricket team has seen selectors run around in circles. Now, despairing over the performance of their senior players, youngsters have been inducted and this move given all sorts of fancy names, promising an 'unprecedented' entry into a 'new era'.

Yet again such an 'unprecedented' step has been taken. Observers are apathetic that PCB has now set a 'precedent' of taking these 'unprecedented' moves time and time again. I would, therefore, advise fans not to get too carried away with this latest hype of preparing a team for next world cup, because PCB has a habit of blowing hot and cold.

In Pakistan cricket there are countless examples of injustices done to young players, they are tried for a game or two and if not an instant success, discarded for the seniors to come back in. How things will be any different this time only time will tell but assuming that to be the case I would like to mention a few areas where I disagree with Rashid Latif.

First is the inclusion of Naved Latif - very strong through the leg-side but can hardly drive to the off, thus an incomplete batsman at the international level. Such is his emphasis on the leg-side that I've even seen him slog sweep at times from outside off in 4-day FC cricket. So, to what extent his game has changed after appearing in only 3 matches in the recently concluded FC Quaid-e-Azam trophy is yet to be seen.

Second is the apparent emphasis on 'bowling all-rounders' - bowlers who can bat. I mentioned in my previous article that Pakistan actually needs batsmen who can bowl, not the other way around. Among the new comers there is only one batsman who can bowl and that is Mohammed Hafeez, a welcome addition but I do not understand the inclusion of Shoaib Malik and Naved-ul-Hasan for the following reason:

When I last saw Shoaib Malik play in an ODI he did not seem capable of bowling more than 4-5 overs in a match. He has had to remove the controversial delivery that moves away from a right-hander after the ICC took action. As a result his effectiveness is questionable as I cannot see him included in the side as a specialist spinner or an all-rounder.

If included, then he must be as a batsman, but would you prefer him ahead of Misbah-ul-Haq, Saeed Bin Nasir, Farhan Adil and others is open to question. He did do well in the domestic one-day NBP Patron's Cup with bat recently, and I do not doubt his credentials but he should not be considered an all-rounder when it comes to team selection.

Naved-ul-Hasan did debut in Sharjah and bowled a good spell. The only real previous outing he had was in Hong Kong sixes. He is very much an orthodox all-rounder, someone who can do a decent job with both bat and bowl. How effective he is in either of the two roles is yet to be seen but I do not understand the inclusion of orthodox all-rounders in the side. I firmly believe that in one-day cricket you either need a specialist batsman who can bowl or a specialist bowler who can bat. This to me is the new definition of an all-rounder.

Every team in the world has tried orthodox all-rounders but then reverted to specialists. India used Ajit Agarkar who now sits out on the bench and instead Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag bowl the replacement overs. Australia tried Ian Harvey who is now mostly a reserve, Darren Lehmann and Andrew Symonds bowl 10 overs as the fifth bowler. Symonds' case is interesting - started as an orthodox all-rounder but then developed his batting a lot. Similarly, South Africa has time and time again unsuccessfully tried out Nicky Boje who has not found a permanent place.

There is a lesson to be learned here, for a player to be able to do a bit of both is not enough. Such 'bits and pieces' players can do well in one or two games but cannot be consistently relied upon with both bat and ball. Pakistan's problem is more with batting and we should address that by including specialist batsmen who can bowl as well.

Third area where I disagree with Rashid Latif is the exclusion of Saeed Anwar - gradually coming into his own in the world cup to be dropped only on the basis of not being around for the next one is beyond comprehension. Perhaps a decision taken in haste because I feel that the young openers could have learned a lot from him. Having an experienced batsman at non-striker's end relieves a lot of pressure off young shoulders. Saeed could have easily been retired in a couple of years after helping prepare a new opening pair for Pakistan.