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Was Arthur right to drop Wahab?

If nothing else, Pakistan are likely to miss Wahab Riaz's experience in England Cricket Australia/Getty Images

Four years ago, Mitchell Johnson was the rage in fast bowling. Real pace is never unfashionable, and even though bowlers are consistently bowling at higher pace than ever before, an uncomplicated idea like Johnson can become a virus.

It was never going to take much for Waqar Younis to fall for it, so he sought to re-unleash Wahab Riaz, having unleashed him in Tests in his first stint as coach in 2010. Wahab was low-maintenance, in that all Waqar had to do was tell him to go out there and bowl as quick as he could - a bit like Imran Khan had told him early in his own career.

In an attack heavily reliant on spin, with a samey set of smart but not express supporting fast bowlers, Wahab's left-arm, low-arm angles and high pace were clear assets. He could bowl a good bouncer, but more importantly, given its historically low yield for Pakistani fast bowling, he was unafraid to use it. Plus, his selection was comforting because it meant Pakistan still believed in and indulged extreme pace.

Which is why it has been a little unsettling to see that he has been discarded, and so definitively that he wasn't even considered good enough to make a probables camp of, presumably, the 25 best players in Pakistan. At nearly 33 and already out of the white-ball squads, this smells like the end.

Among the more intriguing aspects of Wahab is that he has never really been obsessed over like so many Pakistani fast bowlers. There are no blind devotees or blinded haters. Those extremes should be an occupational hazard, especially accounting for the extremes of Wahab's performances - a century conceded in ten overs one day, a game-turning nine-over spell another. For what he does, he is fairly low-profile. Accordingly, there haven't been pockets of outrage about his exclusion, or smug expressions of vindication from those who never thought highly of him (or can't forget the jacket). People have shrugged and moved on.

"There's an attractive theory that if only Wahab had had more days like that, where he was at neither extreme, neither attacking nor being attacked, he might have become less dispensable"

Whereas, the reasons to persist with him are easy to find. Like the one that says he's basically Pakistan's most effective fast bowler in Tests since August 2014, when Waqar brought him back. (Only Yasir Shah has more wickets for Pakistan in that period.) Not easy wickets either - 11 of Wahab's 19 Tests have been in the UAE, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the slowest of the world's slow pitches, on which he has nearly two-thirds of his wickets. Over 80% of his victims are from the top seven. No Pakistani fast bowler has played more Tests, if experience counts for anything, which, in England this summer it will.

Easier with Wahab are to allow moments, not just data, to become reasons in his favour. When the game is drifting away from Sarfraz Ahmed, who will he turn to in his attack to create a ripple? The way Wahab did in Dubai against England and Sri Lanka last year? Who will disrupt and agitate like Wahab did at The Oval in 2016? The scorecard grants him two wickets in England's second innings, but on the final day, as Jonny Bairstow darkened Pakistan's mood, it was Wahab who forced the light in. Yes, it was madcap - he went for runs, and was ultimately sent off 4.3 overs into his spell for running onto the pitch too many times, but he engineered the two wickets in two balls that sealed the win. The first - a run-out off his own bowling - doubled up as a reminder of his innate athleticism.

Much later that season, in Australia, when The Oval felt like a lie, he was Pakistan's least bad bowler in a series that was Pakistan's worst as a bowling side. In Sydney, he even revealed a middle ground, where he could scale down the pace, go outside off and just chill there - like a true Misbah fast bowler.

In fact, there's an attractive theory that if only Wahab had had more days like that, where he was at neither extreme, neither attacking nor being attacked, he might have become less dispensable.

The reasons for dropping him are public, if not entirely satisfactory. He hasn't won a match for Pakistan in two years, Mickey Arthur complained. Given Pakistan haven't won many Tests in two years, that was a neat bit of deflection of attention away from a lot of players (and bowlers) in that side who have not won a match, and also from the head coach within whose ambit results also fall.

Then a mesh of reasons alluding to his fitness, accusing him of a questionable "work ethic around training" and an assertion that he is doing "just the bare minimum" away from the field. It is true Wahab's fitness scores have fallen recently, but on its own, his latest score is still deemed an official passing mark.

And fitness is a more nuanced state than can be captured by one simple measure. There is bowling fitness, and nobody has yet suggested that on the field with ball in hand, Wahab is unfit. Who would, of a man who can maintain high pace in the 40-degree heat of a Dubai afternoon over nine overs? Or even, more recently, a nine-over spell through a hot Dubai evening and blazing morning?

Even Arthur admitted he couldn't fault Wahab with ball in hand, which, in a radical interpretation, should perhaps be the primary way a coach relates to his player.

Maybe Wahab's buy-in to Arthur's high-performance culture hasn't been enthusiastic enough. People talk of a separate training regime in the off season and the occasional dietary indulgence. On the latter front, observationally it would appear that the buy-in from, say, Pakistan's captain has not been great either.

But even if there had been convincing reasons, it's not a great look, this public shaming, especially if it is to be believed that Arthur hadn't spoken to Wahab about it (at least until the dropping). If it is meant to be some kind of motivational coaching reverse psychology, it's coming across as unnecessary and a little vindictive.

It is threatening to become a pattern because it has happened before.

And, Australians may chime in, before that too.