Pakistan's limited-overs squads have gone through numerous changes in the last couple of years. Since the 2019 World Cup, they have tried 27 players in 11 ODIs and 38 players in 34 T20Is (in the first seven of those game alone, there were 25 different players, and a change in captaincy, though the team was No. 1 in the T20I rankings at the time).

A pattern has emerged of too many players being dropped after too few opportunities or despite producing decent results. Much of this has come during the tenures of Misbah-ul-Haq (September 2019 to December 2020) and Mohammad Wasim (since January 2021) as chief selectors.

In that time Pakistan have still won more white-ball games than they've lost - their win-loss record is 22-18 - but it has been an uneven, unsettled ride.

Below are some of the more difficult-to-explain selectorial decisions Misbah, who is also head coach, and Wasim have taken in that time.

Khushdil Shah
Pakistan's issues with finding a middle-order batter and finisher in white-ball cricket are well-known. They looked at Khushdil as someone who could fix those problems, but he was dropped after a single ODI, in which he scored 33 batting at No. 7 against Zimbabwe in 2020.

Since making his debut in 2016, Khushdil has scored 2225 runs in List A cricket at an average of 51.74 and a strike-rate 99.19. No middle-order batter in Pakistan's domestic one-day game has more centuries than his eight in this period, and no batter from Pakistan has hit more sixes than his 94.

He scored a 35-ball 100 in the National T20 Cup last year and is one of the most successful power-hitters from Pakistan in the last couple of seasons - since 2020, only Mohammad Hafeez, with 62, has hit more sixes than his 56 - but he was given only nine T20Is to prove his worth - too small a sample size to judge a batter whose role is to play high-risk cricket.

Usman Shinwari
Shinwari is one of those players who, because of poor performances in one format, has been dropped from others - a recurring theme in Pakistan over the last few years. He does not have a great record in T20Is, and an economy of 10.37 in the last two PSLs didn't help. But his ODI numbers are too good to be ignored - in 17 games he has claimed 34 wickets at an average of 18.61 and an economy of 4.94.

That includes ten wickets in his last three ODIs alone, including 4 for 49 against Australia in Dubai in 2019, and a Player-of-the-Match effort of 5 for 51 against Sri Lanka in Karachi. Earlier that year he took four wickets in Pakistan's win in Johannesburg. Most players doing this in a World Cup year could rightly dream of playing in the tournament, but Shinwari wasn't considered.

Even when Pakistan decided to drop Faheem Ashraf and Junaid Khan, who played against England in the five-match ODI series right before the World Cup, Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chief selector at that time, picked Wahab Riaz over Shinwari. Wahab hadn't played an ODI in two years, while Shinwari had ten wickets in the last five ODIs before the World Cup, and two four-wicket hauls.

He was selected again by Misbah for Pakistan's first ODI series after the World Cup and his five wickets in that first game back, against Sri Lanka, proved the selection right. After that, however, he played only one more ODI and then wasn't considered for the next series, against Zimbabwe. That call was made ostensibly on his PSL 2020 performance, where he went wicketless in four T20s and conceded 11.45 per over.

No Pakistan bowler has had a better average in ODIs than Shinwari in the last five years. Why he is hardly even in the conversation for a place in the ODI side is anybody's guess.

Imad Wasim
Although widely seen as a bowler, it is with the bat that Imad has excelled in ODIs. He has averaged 50.54 in the last three years with a strike rate of 121.39 - the third highest in the world after Jos Buttler and Glenn Maxwell (for batters with a minimum of 500 runs in that period).

His average may be boosted by not-outs, but that indicates he is a much better batter than a regular No. 7 or 8, the two positions where he has mostly batted. No other player has averaged more at these two positions in ODIs in the last three years.

Given the evidence of an unbeaten 117 off 78 in a warm-up match against Kent before the England series in 2019 and the 49 not out in the World Cup against Afghanistan, there's an argument that Pakistan could have promoted him to No. 6, considering they still haven't found anyone for this role. Yet, after the World Cup, he played only three ODIs before being left out.

Shan Masood
The highest run scorer in List A cricket in the last five years in Pakistan - since 2016, Masood has scored 3376 runs at an average of 80.38, at a strike rate of 86.21, and hit 13 centuries - has played only five ODIs. Masood was picked for the series against Australia in the UAE before the World Cup in 2019 and was never considered again after.

It is true that Pakistan's current ODI openers, Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq, are doing a decent job (though the latter's List A average and strike rate are lower than Masood's) and their back-up, Abid Ali, has also proven his selection. But before the series against Zimbabwe in 2020, Pakistan picked a new opener, Abdullah Shafique, who had not played a single List A match. An uncapped List A player being selected for ODIs ahead of someone who is still only 31 years old and is averaging over 80 in the last five years? There are few better illustrations of the strange ways in which Pakistani selection operates.

Abid Ali
Abid's case is similar to Masood's. Though his Test batting does not hint at it, he earned an ODI cap after good performances in domestic cricket. He scored 789 runs at an average of 65.75 in List A cricket in 2017-18, including a double-century. The next season, he scored 562 runs at 56.20 followed by a century against England Lions. Based on these performances he became a candidate to play in the 2019 World Cup and made his case even stronger with a century on ODI debut against Australia.

After that century he played two more ODIs before Pakistan decided to leave him out of the World Cup, though he was supposed to be the back-up wicketkeeper to Sarfaraz Ahmed. He returned after the World Cup and was Player of the Match in his first outing, against Sri Lanka in Karachi. Two ODIs later, he was dropped despite his 234 runs in six innings at an average of 39.00 and a strike rate of 93.60, better than many current Pakistan batters.

Danish Aziz
While his overall white-ball numbers might not be impressive, Aziz was one of the best finishers in the 2020 National T20 Cup, where, he scored 220 runs for Sindh at an average of 73.33 and a strike rate of 154.92. The highlight was chasing 19 runs in the last over against Khyber Pakhtunwala. In the PSL recently in Abu Dhabi, Aziz was one six away from scoring Pakistan's fastest fifty in T20s. In between he was given only two T20Is before being discarded from the national squads.

It can be argued that it was wrong to pick him in ODIs in the first place but that he was dropped after only two games underlines that players are either getting selected without significant performances in domestic cricket or being dropped after getting too few chances.

Muhammad Musa
Musa was one of the finest prospects to emerge from the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, where he took four wickets in the semi-final against India. He played two ODIs against Zimbabwe and took a wicket in his very first over. It wasn't that he was only given an opportunity because Pakistan were testing their bench strength; he played against Australia too in T20Is, another format where he was dropped after two games.

You could argue that his selection was premature, but three emerging fast bowlers - Shahnawaz Dahani, Arshad Iqbal and Mohammad Wasim Jr - have now suddenly risen above him in the pecking order. It says a lot about the current selection process, where the selectors seem easily swayed by performances in the most recent games they've watched, and go on to pick a new player to replace someone tipped for the same role just the previous season. For instance, it is tough to believe that Abdullah Shafique would have been selected had his hundred on debut in the National T20 Cup not been televised.

Mohammad Amir
Amir's current form in T20s - 22 wickets at an average of 44.54 and an economy of 8.27 in the last year - is poor, but that shouldn't undermine his ODI record, where, in his last ten games, he has 21 wickets at an average of 20.42 and an economy of 4.76. This stretch includes the 2019 World Cup, where he was Pakistan's leading wicket-taker, with 17 wickets.

After the World Cup, he has only played two ODIs, in the home series against Sri Lanka, taking four wickets at an average of 17.75. Pakistan didn't play another ODI for nearly a year, though Amir was part of Pakistan's T20 squads that toured Australia in 2019 and England in 2020. He struggled on those trips and by the time of Pakistan's next ODI series, against Zimbabwe in 2020, was out of favour.

Should a player be dropped from ODIs for not performing well in T20Is? Admittedly, an ongoing spat with current management has also led to his continued exclusion. Amir retired from Tests after the 2019 World Cup. For a while that didn't matter, as Pakistan continued to select him for T20Is. But a change in the team management's stance has subsequently led to his exclusion from all Pakistan teams, based - according to Misbah - solely on his form. Not, clearly, his ODI form.


During his recent stint as batting coach, Younis Khan admitted that Pakistan's selection policy is reactive to criticism on social and mainstream media. Pressure is built through these platforms to select players who are too raw, and expectations of them are so high that when they fail, they are buried. That goes for established players as well, and there are a couple of players who, given Pakistan's recent selection track record, could be in trouble despite actually not performing that poorly.

Shadab Khan
There are two major factors behind Shadab's dip in bowling form in white-ball cricket. The first is that he has been through a succession of injuries from which he has still not fully recovered. Second, he hasn't played any international cricket in Pakistan or the UAE in 12 months.

Since Shadab has played all his recent international cricket in England, New Zealand and South Africa - arguably the three most difficult places for spinners - he hasn't been able to meet his initial standards. A case in point is the T20I series in New Zealand last year, where he went wicketless. In that entire series, Pakistan's and New Zealand's spinners together took only two wickets, while the seamers took 32. In the 2021 PSL after that, with nine wickets, Shadab was still the leading Pakistani wicket-taking spinner.

Someone who is still only 22 and the world's leading wicket-taker in T20Is among spinners since his debut in 2017, who adds depth to batting, and is the best fielder in the team, deserves some leeway given during a rough patch. Jasprit Bumrah, for instance, has only five wickets in his last nine ODIs at an average of 96.40 in the last couple of years but will still be one of the first names on India's team sheet.

Shadab's T20I numbers are in line with most of his contemporaries since his debut - Ish Sodhi, Yuzvendra Chahal, Adil Rashid and Tabraiz Shamsi. Only Rashid Khan has an exceptional record but he hasn't played against Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa or Sri Lanka in this period.

The same goes for Shadab in ODIs. He had the third best average among spinners in the 2019 World Cup and since then has played only seven ODIs (five of them in England and South Africa) with little success. It's a small sample size, and because of where he has played, a skewed one, on which to write off a spinner. As an example, check Rashid Khan's figures in the same World Cup - arguably the greatest spinner of this era, struggling in conditions that didn't suit him, against a superior quality of opponent.

Haris Rauf
Haris is the leading wicket-taker among fast bowlers in T20Is and T20s since 2020. In internationals he has 28 wickets at an average of 25.07, while overall in T20s he has 80 wickets at 23.20. That isn't enough to shield him from severe criticism on Twitter and YouTube.

Yes, his economy (8.94) is an issue, but he is only in his second year of international cricket, having been fast-tracked in. Anyone that raw and with the ability to bowl at 90mph is likely to be wayward at the start.

He has also shown that he is among the best bowlers in the death overs in T20Is, and it is the coaches' job to define his role in the team and work on his areas of weakness, such as his middle-overs effectiveness, where he has only three wickets and an economy of 8.68.

Even in ODIs, since the 2019 World Cup, no one has more wickets for Pakistan than him. These are decent numbers for a bowler who started playing professional cricket only three years ago and was picked for international cricket after four List A matches. None among Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan had ten wickets in their first eight ODIs, and Shoaib Akhtar had only 11. Trent Boult, currently the world's top-ranked ODI bowler, had six wickets at 47.66 in his first eight ODIs.

This not to say that Rauf is guaranteed a career like these players have had, but these numbers underscore that success has never come easy, not even for the greatest bowlers, and that you need to back talent to build a successful career.

Mazher Arshad is a cricket statistician who has covered 60 Tests, over 150 limited-overs internationals, and the PSL, among other cricket. @MazherArshad