Umar Gul, the Pakistan fast bowler, has rued what he has termed a lack of trust from the selectors for leaving him out of the squad for the ongoing tour of England. In a strongly worded interview with Dawn, he said a "double-standard policy" on fitness had led to his omission from the 2015 World Cup squad. His outburst has upset the selectors, but they have urged him to stay in contention by playing domestic cricket.
Gul, 32, did not make either the final squad for the England tour or the list of players called up for a national training and skills camp in Abbottabad and Lahore. He has been in and out of the side since missing large parts of 2013 and 2014 with a knee injury and subsequent rehabilitation following surgery in Australia. He last played for Pakistan in the second T20I of their tour of New Zealand in January.
"Look, I'm not saying that they should play me," Gul said. "But at least treat my case on the same level as of others. Usually, it's not in my nature to speak out my mind. But when people start rating me as a discard then it hurts a lot. I have had fair share of injuries during my long international career. Just tell which fast bowler doesn't get injured? This is part and parcel of cricket.
"However, some people [in the cricket board] make you a fool by jumping to the conclusion that so and so individual's playing career at the international level is over. And what is more annoying is that when you confront them they'll act as if nothing has happened and will try to be as supportive as they can but the same people will form different opinion behind your back."
Gul said he had met the selectors' fitness requirements ahead of the 2015 World Cup, and was puzzled by his non-selection.
"I was aghast when I found out that the parameter for fitness for the 2015 World Cup was set at 60 points. And yet I was not good enough to be considered [for selection] despite recording 62 points. Somebody in the PCB must be honest enough to explain this double-standard policy.
"Now I realize that sometime just being fit is not enough to be inducted because the trust is not there. Being the senior-most fast bowler, there was no way they [selectors] could have sidelined me the way they did. They were not willing to trust me as a player. In the last season I had rediscovered my rhythm and felt extremely fit to reclaim my Pakistan spot, but the selectors still chose to ignore me."
Pakistan's bowling attack seems to have come out of a long transition period, with Mohammad Amir's reintegration lending it a settled look. Other fast bowlers have leapfrogged Gul and Junaid Khan in the pecking order, largely due to concerns over their fitness, with both troubled by recurring injuries. Gul's decline can be seen in his place in Pakistan's lists of centrally contracted players. He was a category A player in 2011 and 2012, and was included in category B in 2013 and 2014, despite missing much of their cricket with injury. He has not found a place in the contract list in 2015 and 2016.
Inzamam ul Haq, Pakistan's chief selector, was reluctant to comment on Gul's outburst, but Tauseef Ahmed, a member of the selection panel, responded, saying the reasons for Gul's non-selection were "not unfair".
"He shouldn't be giving statement, rather focusing on his cricket and keep on performing," Tauseef told ESPNcricinfo. "Cricket season has just started and he shouldn't be disheartened as there are a lot of series ahead and it's not just about Umar Gul but every player who didn't make into the Test side.
"You obviously can't select everyone at once but we are completely aware about who is dropped and who is selected. Junaid Khan is the other bowler who was left out and he along with Umar was also in contention. But we have our reasons, which are not unfair, and the selected bunch was the best we could possibly pick according the the conditions and competition.
"It's not just about being senior; its about what is the capability of a player and where he can fit in. Cricket is being played format-wise now, and it's not like we have discarded him forever. Bowlers who are selected are good enough and have experience. We will make sure everyone gets a fair chance and we have a lot of cricket ahead and we will continue to monitor the performances of players.
"The problem is that we didn't have much cricket in the recent past and most of our players are untested. So with a lot of cricket ahead we want to have as many players being tested out [as possible] and that is why we have brought new bowlers into the A team. Gul and Junaid might have missed out but they are still our asset and part of our country's cricket. They should continue with their cricket and keep on performing in domestic cricket. One must talk with his performance in the ground and that should be a talking point. Journalists should be making noise for player rather than player himself."