August 26, 2001

Selectors eat humble pie and name Wasim in 16-man squad

The bungling Pakistan cricket selectors Saturday had to eat humble pie and name Wasim Akram in the 16-man squad for the Asian Test Championship opener against Bangladesh.

Earlier the same set of selectors had not considered Wasim, who has 414 Test and 440 one-day wickets, even good enough to be included in 27 probables selected on July 31 and invited to attend a reconditioning camp that concluded at the National Stadium on Wednesday. Ironically, an unfit duo of Mohammad Sami and Shoaib Akhtar were called to appear in the camp.

But the three-time former captain, whose exclusion sparked an avoidable controversy, proved that he deserved a place in the team not on charity but on merit when he upstaged Shoaib Akhtar in the two-day 90-over-a-side match earlier this week.

Shoaib Akhtar, who has spent more of his time in the dressing room and globe trotting at the expense of PCB rather than justifying millions of rupees invested on him, was eventually left out from the squad, though belatedly. However, the chairman of selectors Wasim Bari, who refused to neither explain the inclusion of Wasim nor defended the inclusion of a couple of other players, said Shoaib wanted more match practice.

"Shoaib Akhtar has informed that he needs more match practice. Shoaib Malik has been included because Saqlain Mushtaq is not available," Bari said in his brief statement, adding: "I will notmake any further comments on the team,"

Graceful left-handed opener Taufiq Umer and middle-order batsman Naved Latif were the only new faces in the side. But God knows on which performance another "liability" Mohammad Akram was included in the team.

Akram, the 28-year-old pacer, in his last Test against New Zealand at Hamilton had figures of none for 106 while in a previous game against Sri Lanka at Karachi, had figures of one for 49 and one for 44. The injury-prone bowler has played nine Tests since making his debut against Sri Lanka in 1995-96.

Moreover, Akram was not considered as first choice replacement after Shoaib Akhtar broke down in England. Fazle Akbar reinforced the team for the tri-nation one-day series but now the Peshawar bowler is out of favour. "It is a well balanced team. In our humble opinion, it is the best team to represent Pakistan. The playing lineup, I again repeat, will be named by the captain before the start of the match and after seeing the wicket," Bari said.

One thing that clearly emerged is that the present selectors have no vision and lack planning. After watching Shoaib Akhtar in the two-day match, it should have been them and not the bowler who should have said he requires more match practice.

And had they visualized things, they would have made Shoaib play in the three-dayer against Bangladesh currently in progress at the UBL Sports Complex. Now the situation is that Shoaib will be doubtful starter for the one-day series against New Zealand as the Patron's Trophy first-class tournament begins Sept 21 - two days after the first one-dayer at Karachi.

The other issue, which raises eyebrows, is the validity of the threedayer between the PCB XI and the touring Bangladesh. The squad was named at a time when promising Misbah-ul-Haq was batting and Naved Latif had been dismissed. The eventual result was Misbah was left out even after scoring an unbeaten half century while Naved sneaked into the team after scoring 30.

Similarly, paceman Shabbir Ahmad should also consider himself unlucky when his three-wicket burst on Friday failed to impress the selectors who opted for mediocre and tested Mohammad Akram who has proved over the years a total flop.

As regards other members of the team, wrist spinner Danish Kaneria has been recalled after 10 months. He last played in the final two Tests against England last year. Also back in the fold is Irfan Fazil who played in the third and final Test against Sri Lanka at Karachi in March 2000. All-rounder Azhar Mahmood was not considered for selection because of stomach upset.

Squad: Waqar Younis (captain), Inzamam-ul-Haq (vice-captain), Saeed Anwar, Taufiq Umer, Yousuf Youhana, Younis Khan, Faisal Iqbal, Imran Nazir, Naved Latif, Abdul Razzaq, Rashid Latif, Danish Kaneria, Wasim Akram, Irfan Fazil, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Akram.