After days of confusion, Intikhab Alam
has put an emphatic end to
speculation surrounding Pakistan's wicketkeeping spot, saying that there
is "no doubt" Sarfraz Ahmed
will play as the wicketkeeper in Kamran Akmal
in the third Test in Hobart starting on Thursday.
Speculation has been rife and silly since the Sydney Test about Akmal and
his role in the Pakistan side. Reports emerged blaming his late-night
babysitting for the four dropped catches at the SCG and there has been
talk of his younger brother Umar pulling out of the third Test with an
allegedly feigned back injury in protest at the axing.
The team was given a day off from practice today, but Umar and Sarfraz
trained at the Bellerive Oval under the eyes of Intikhab and Aaqib Javed,
the assistant coach. There will be a selection meeting the day before the
Test begins but Intikhab indicated that if it comes to a vote with the
four-man selection committee (Mohammad Yousuf, Akmal, Intikhab and manager
Abdur Raquib form the panel), Akmal will step aside.
"Naturally he [Sarfraz] has been sent as a reinforcement," Intikhab said.
"Unfortunately Kamran had a bad game and he is a very good
wicketkeeper-batsman. It can happen to anyone but the fact of the matter is
Sarfraz has been sent here and we will give him a chance.
"It has happened in the past [a vice-captain having a vote on his own
position in the side]. We were in Sri Lanka, the vice-captain was
Misbah-ul-Haq and he wasn't having a good time and we decided in the
meeting, at times you have to take that tough decision and we'll take that
decision. And there is no doubt that Sarfraz will play.
"We have a three-member committee but this time the manager will also sit
in. We're sure the right decision will be taken and he will have a vote as
well. I have already spoken to Kamran and I think he understands. These
things happen in cricket. I'm sure he's good enough and he'll come back."
Younger brother Umar had a longish net session, having sat out practice
yesterday and woken up this morning to stories about the stiff back being merely
a ploy to protest at the treatment of Kamran. Intikhab said the back was
fine and talk of protest absolute rubbish.
"He is ok. He had a sore back. The last few days the guys have been
working very, very hard, and so I gave them a day off today," Intikhab
said. "Umar didn't practice yesterday, he was sent to hospital and had
x-rays done and the doctors said there is nothing wrong with him. He has
had one painkilling injection but that's why I brought him here to make
sure he is fit and raring to go.
"It's [the stories of his protest] all rubbish. At times I laugh when I
read such stories. He's one of the emerging cricketers in world cricket
and he is capable and has the ability to do that. He is ok."
Training cheerily alongside Umar was Sarfraz, who having played eight ODIs
in 2008, finally finds himself on the verge of a Test debut, the first man
other than Akmal to don Pakistan's Test gloves since late 2004.
"Of course the pressure is there for representing your country against
Australia," Sarfraz said. "But all the coaches, the manager and players
have really supported me and told me to take no pressure and treat it like
you are playing a normal first-class match."
Sarfraz was part of the same Pakistan A tour to Australia as Umar in
June-July last year and had a similarly successful time, picking up 11
victims and three fifties in the two 'Tests'. And some advice had already
come his way on conditions here, he said, from the man he is set to
replace. "Kami supported me and said play your natural game. I arrived two
days ago and he said no pressure. He told me about the pitch here, a
little bounce and some break. He is a very good player no doubt and
everyone goes through a bad patch. I will give my 100% for our team."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo