Poor form or... why was Sana Mir given the axe?
That Sana Mir hasn't been at her best of late is clear, but is there more to her omission than that?
You'd expect Sana Mir
to be an automatic choice in most Pakistan women's squads. But when the 15-member squad for the women's T20 World Cup was announced
on Monday, there was no place in it for the former captain, and chief selector Urooj Mumtaz
justified the decision by pointing to the 34-year-old's loss of form.
The numbers: Mir has averaged 27.81 with 22 wickets in 27 T20Is over the last two years. As a straight comparison, fellow spinner Anam Amin
has had a much more productive time in this period, averaging 18.04 in 20 T20Is. In the recent domestic T20 Women's Championship, Anam was the leading wicket-taker with seven strikes at 13.71, while Mir managed four wickets at 30.25. Anam also picked up five wickets at 9.40 against Bangladesh late last year.
"Unfortunately, Sana's present form in T20 cricket hasn't been great and we have taken into consideration two internationals series and domestic tournaments," Mumtaz said. "There can be no doubt about her achievements, and the fact that she has been an inspiration in the sport. Her experience is unmatched but now we have an expanding pool of players and we have to pick players who are performing consistently.
"We've never had such a rich pool, so we have to look towards younger players. The average age of this side is 24, and that's very exciting. The team has been selected keeping in mind current form and performances along with the conditions in Australia. Women cricketers have limited opportunities as compared to men to exhibit their form and Sana in the last series against Bangladesh hasn't done a great deal, and later missed the England series. All we had was the domestic tournament in which she almost had an economy of ten in the first two games."
Last year, Mir skipped a chunk of the home series against Bangladesh, instead going to America on a personal visit. She returned to play the second T20I, and conceded 35 runs in four overs, before being left out of the last game. She played two ODIs against Bangladesh in Lahore and then took a surprise break from the all-important series against England in Malaysia, saying that she wanted to "reset her future objectives and targets".
Shortly before the squad was announced on Monday, Mir posted a cryptic tweet: "Don't blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus." Make of that what you will.
It's true that while Mir's exclusion might have been a surprise to casual followers of the game, relations between her and the Pakistan management haven't been especially cordial of late.
She was removed from the captaincy in 2017 and the then women's general manger Shamsa Hashmi had said
that she had been trying to control Mir's "manoeuvring and hegemony by counselling". Her captaincy was severely criticised by Shamsa, who accused her of taking "shocking on-field decisions".
Then, later, Pakistan's winless 2017 World Cup campaign ended with head coach Sabih Azhar accusing Mir
of adopting a "negative approach" and being "completely self-obsessed".
After this latest development, one wonders whether Mir, now 34, will be able to add to her 106 T20I and 120 ODI appearances.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent