Asif surprised at missing out on Test spot
Mohammad Asif, whose seven wickets yesterday ensured that England's batsmen would continue to struggle at the start of their Pakistan tour, has expressed surprise at not being called into Pakistan's squad to take on the visitors in the first Test at Multan.
After the day's play, Asif was quoted in local papers saying, "Given my performances for the Pakistan A team and in the practice matches plus domestic cricket I was confident the selectors would consider me for a recall. But when my name was not included, I was surprised, not disheartened.
"The selectors have their tactics and requirements when they pick the Pakistan squad so I don't blame them but I just hope now I will get a chance to play again for the senior team."
Asif played one Test for Pakistan against Australia last year in Sydney and although he didn't pick up a wicket, he reportedly impressed the management with his attitude and his doughty, committed batting in both innings. He has been kept in mind by the selectors, however, and Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, has said that Asif is among the most improved players he has worked with in Pakistan.
Hasan Raza has at least been picked in the 16-man squad and is now pushing for a place in the starting XI. It is widely acknowledged that Raza, captain of Pakistan A in this match, is on the verge of a Test spot and after his resilient innings of 34 yesterday, coupled with Asim Kamal's appalling run of form, he will have done his chances no harm.
He told reporters that he was disappointed with the lack of application of his batsmen yesterday. "The pitch eased out a bit but the ball was seaming around but still, we should have applied ourselves and got more runs. After bowling them out for 126 it was a golden chance to win the match but now the game is wide open and we will have to bowl very well again in the second innings. I was disappointed not to get my half-century but I tried my best and they bowled well."
Raza last played for Pakistan against Zimbabwe in November 2002 and since his debut in 1996-97 - reportedly as a 14-year-old - he has played only five Tests. In his third Test, against Australia in the disastrous 2002-03 series played in Colombo and Sharjah, Raza scored two half-centuries as Pakistan's inexperienced batting repeatedly collapsed.
That performance won him praise from Steve Waugh, the former Australian captain, who was apparently surprised that Raza was not in the Pakistan squad that toured Down Under in December last year.
Murmurings over an attitude problem and a weakness against short-pitched bowling have given his career a stop-start feel but with the management now impressed by his maturity, as a person and as a batsman, the chances of a recall are brighter than ever before.