India in Pakistan, 2005-06 January 9, 2006

Imran Farhat may get first Test call-up

Waheed Khan

Imran Farhat could make a comeback against India for the first Test © Getty Images
Imran Farhat, Pakistan's discarded opener, might be called up for the first Test against India after a splendid 107 runs against the Indians on Sunday in the tour match at the Bagh-e-Jinnah Ground in Lahore.

Wasim Bari, the chief selector didn't rule out the possibility of Farhat being considered for the Test team, when asked if he was under consideration for selection after his century despite his not being in the preliminary 18-member squad. Bari said, "The 18 players were only announced for the conditioning camp. But this is a home series and we can call up any player we want. Every player who is doing well at the domestic level is a candidate for selection."

Farhat's sudden change of luck has also been helped by the fact that Yasir Hameed, who was named in the probables and was seen as a front-runner to open with Salman Butt, has been ruled out with typhoid. Yasir confirmed he had been ill for the last few days and had undergone a course of some 14 injections. He stated, "The doctors say I am okay now and I was thinking of joining the camp but yes it is true I am still feeling weak."

Farhat who last played a Test for Pakistan in December 2004 against Australia had good fortune smiling on him as he chose the perfect time to score a hundred despite playing some streaky shots. Just as he was going out to bat after lunch, Bari was immersed in discussions with Inzamam-ul-Haq and Bob Woolmer, the coach, on how to resolve the opening pair problem created due to the illness of Yasir.

It was obvious after the discussions that three batsmen were competing for the one opening slot and when Woolmer and later on Bari with Iqbal Qasim and Ehteshamuddin, fellow selectors, came to the Bagh-e-Jinnah to watch Farhat play it became clear he had a chance of making the Test squad. Bazid Khan, another candidate for the opening slot, was also sent into open with Farhat and got out early.

Inzamam admitted that it was yet to be decided who would open for Pakistan in the first Test. He said, "We have some options available to us notably Shoaib Malik who did a decent job against England. We also have Rafatullah Mohmand and Shahid Afridi." But Inzamam dropped a hint on his mindset when he said that Mohmand was still raw and it would be a risk asking him to make his debut against India in a high-pressure game and that Afridi had done better low down the order.

The word on Sunday evening was that Mohmand, Asim Kamal, Yasir and Umar Gul had been released from the Pakistan conditioning camp. But as far as Asim Kamal is concerned he could still upset the applecart as he is still batting in the tour match. And if he goes on to get some good runs before the team is announced sometime on Monday it would put the selectors and team management in an uncertain position whether to drop him or retain him given he has a good Test record.

And the rumours are also strong that Farhat has been called up for the first Test, but it would still not guarantee him an opening slot against India as it is no secret that the captain is still wary of again trying out players he has tried out before and they have failed to respond with consistent performances despite good performances at the domestic level.