Hameed and Kamal likely to be recalled
Batsmen Yasir Hameed and Asim Kamal are in contention for Pakistan's Test squad for the West Indies series, following a litany of batting failures on tours to Sri Lanka, England and the Champions Trophy.
Pakistan's trouble with openers is well-chronicled; over 15 combinations have been tried in their last 20 Tests alone including players such as Salman Butt, Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar. None has brought particular success. Hameed played the last of his 17 Tests in June 2005 against West Indies and according to Wasim Bari, chairman of selectors, is under consideration once again.
Bari told Cricinfo, "There are four openers on the national circuit: Imran Farhat, Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez and Yasir Hameed. Hameed has been out of the side for some time but he will definitely be under consideration for the series because no pair, or player, has really established himself in that position yet.
"He can definitely make a comeback. Hafeez has done exactly the same. He was out of the Test side for nearly three years before he returned, after performing well domestically and on A tours. He played well on his return at The Oval as well and any player who shows form can come back."
No such luck for another forgotten opener Imran Nazir, however. Following a blistering century for Sialkot against Uttar Pradesh in the Mohammad Nissar Trophy, his name briefly resurfaced as a contender to add to the eight Tests he has played for Pakistan. But Bari was of the opinion that Tests were not Nazir's arena. "He is a different type of player. He is mainly an ODI player and maybe not suited for Tests. But if he performs consistently domestically, he has a chance."
The problem appears to be one of limited choice, as Bari concedes. Rafatullah Mohmand, who enjoyed a prolific run in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy last season with Peshawar, was also floating around the national squad earlier in the season. He wasn't picked eventually and though he made scores of 39 and 40 against Australia A in the Top End series in July, Bari only termed his performances as "average."
"There are other openers around on the domestic circuit but mostly they are too young right now and not experienced enough," said Bari. "Karachi's Khurram Manzoor has potential but again not mature enough as a player just yet."
Lower down, below the formidable middle three, Pakistan has also struggled with the dip in form of both Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal. In searching for solidity, calls for Kamal over the last couple of months have not been rare. Eight half-centuries in 12 Tests is not a poor record and they've been made in Australia, West Indies, India and Pakistan, as Bari acknowledges. "Kamal is always in contention for the number six spot in Test matches. He has a good record in Tests and provides solidity to the lower order."
But the re-emergence of Faisal Iqbal has complicated matters. "Faisal I think has edged him out slightly over the last year in that spot. He has a hundred against India, a good fifty against Sri Lanka and a couple of decent scores against England as well. You have to be fair to players who are performing, which he has done."
Pakistan will hold a three-day pre-series training camp from November 3 and the squad is expected to be announced soon after.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo