Sami, Rehman in Pakistan squad
Pakistan's captain, coach and chief selector were forced to backtrack on their choices for replacing injured players in the squad for the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean. A day after the trio said Mohammad Sami and Mohammad Irfan had been approved as replacements for Umar Gul and Yasir Arafat - without the approval of the PCB chairman Ijaz Butt - the board announced that Sami and Abdur Rehman, the left-arm spinner, will now be the replacements instead.
The confusion had begun early yesterday morning, when Shahid Afridi and Waqar Younis and then Mohsin Khan, held press conferences in Lahore ruling out Gul and Arafat and bringing in Sami and Irfan, a decision that didn't have unanimous backing among the selection committee in any case.
Further, Butt had not been informed of the replacements and his approval wasn't sought - as is the procedure - and the board immediately issued a release clarifying that no replacements had been approved.
The lack of communication is believed to have irked Butt and soon after meetings were held in Lahore's Gaddafi stadium HQ between selectors, coach, captain and board officials. Though both captain and coach were keen on Irfan, the main objection to his selection was that he hadn't been picked in the list of 30 probables that Pakistan had sent to the ICC.
Though a final decision wasn't taken last night - Butt had by then flown to Dubai for an ICC meeting - the name of Rehman as an alternative had been agreed upon. The team management was keen on another fast bowler, but only left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz was in the probables list and he is not fully fit. Today it was decided Rehman would be picked ahead of Irfan.
"After Gul and Arafat's injury we wanted another fast bowler, but from the list of 30 probables, we didn't have any others," Mohsin told Cricinfo. "The problem with Irfan's selection was that he wasn't in the 30 and that is where the problem was. Rehman's name has been approved by the chairman." The ICC clarified, however, that a player can be picked from outside the probables list.
Rehman has been one of Pakistan's leading domestic spinners for the last few years now and was particularly successful in the season just gone. He has played two Tests as well as a number of ODIs, though the last time he stepped out in Pakistan colours was back in November 2007.
The turnaround denies Irfan what would've been a dream entry into international cricket, not even a year after his first-class debut. Irfan's height - he is said to be near 7 feet tall - has attracted attention and his bowling has impressed many this season, including Afridi. "I've faced him and he is really good," Afridi told The News today. "We can actually use him as a surprise package in the World Twenty20. He is quite fast but it's his height that can really trouble a lot of batsmen. He extracts good bounce."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo