Mushtaq Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim and Imran Farhat are the three players who have suffered the axe. The PCB Chairman, addressing a press conference last week, announced: "They are flying back home after the completion of the two-match test series against England. And the players joining the team would be Shahid Afridi, Imran Nazir and Shoaib Malik."

Obviously, the three prematurely returning home must also be aware that, with their return seats having been booked, their chances of making it to the Old Trafford Test are bleak.

Now for once, consider Mushi playing at Old Trafford and getting five wickets in each England innings or the left-hander Imran hammering a century. What would happen then? Obviously, a dilemma for the PCB.

Ok! Without rushing on to things, let me take both parties' case turn by turn, while examining each one's most recent performances. Let's first handle the 'returning party', if I can call them so.

Mushtaq Ahmed
Mushtaq Ahmed
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Mushtaq Ahmed: Mushtaq played three of the four side matches (excluding the one-day fixture against Leicestershire) on the tour and got wickets. He gave a match-winning performance against the British Universities, bagging 8 wickets in the second innings. Again he got 4 in his last outing against Leicestershire, a four-day match, just a few days ago. He did not play against Derbyshire, whereas against Kent he remained wicketless, although he did bowl tidily in that three-dayer. So given a chance in the final test, he might prove handy. Moreover, his record in England, both in international and county matches, is sufficient proof of this top-class leggie in beguiling the English batsmen. He has 32 wickets in 8 tests, at 28.81, played in England.

I thus feel, it does not seem a right decision to call Mushi back without offering him a chance in any of the international games.

Imran Farhat
Imran Farhat
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Imran Farhat: Imran, on his part, has a highest score of 46, the third highest for Pakistan in the three-day match against Derbyshire. That certainly does not do justice to his talent but he is touring England for the first time, and history is witness that tours to England are always a tough challenge for even the most experienced of batsmen.

It certainly would have been prudent to blood him some more by retaining him to prove his credentials in limited overs cricket. Remember, he was given only one match, the first one against Sri Lanka, in the tri-nation at Sharjah before being replaced by the more experienced Imran Nazir.

Moreover, Imran Farhat is certainly better than some other members of the squad, who have been retained for the ODIs. And wasn't it Imran about whom Geoff Boycott, one of the better judges of cricketing talent, uttered words of praise before the team's departure to New Zealand earlier this year? Is it, thus, the right way to groom our talent?

Mohammad Wasim
Mohammad Wasim
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Mohammad Wasim: For many, he was one of the most surprise choices even for the test series, no less than a miracle for a man who had been mostly out of active cricket for quite some time and whose domestic record had not been outstanding. One wonders, haven't the national selectors showed a lot of generosity in picking him for the tour?

Wasim's performance in the side matches has not been of note. He batted in three innings, against the British Universities, Derby, and Leicestershire getting 27, 15 and 36. Interesting to note, he donned the wicket keeping gloves in the last match and held one catch. However, this certainly is not an impressive record, at least not sufficient to assure him a place in the one-day side. Moreover, his overall record in the shortened version of the game is not enviable. Thus for me, he's the only appropriate choice among the returning party.

Now let's move on to the second of the two parties, the England-bound ODI specialist party:

Shahid Afridi
Shahid Afridi
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Shahid Afridi: No doubt about his credentials; one fails to find words to describe the power and ferocity of his shots. Apart from being a ruthless hitter, he is a handy right-arm bowler, a good replacement for Mushtaq (now that the decision has been made). A good fielder too, though I believe his ability as a sound fielder is a bit exaggerated. I have seen him many a time diving at the ball when he could easily have done without it, resulting in one or two extra runs. Still, he is a perfect choice for ODIs.

Imran Nazir: He made an explosive appearance on the international scene a few years ago, only to lose momentum with the passage of time. He has been afforded a lot of chances and the fact is, he hasn't really come up to expectations but still he finds himself in selector's good books.

He played some useful innings for Sheikhupura in the One-day tournament (Associations), the last one in Pakistan's domestic circuit. His head to head centuries in the pool matches against Karachi Blues (148 off 110 balls) and Sargodha (102 off 63) are particularly worth mentioning but were they only an enviable record for record-keepers?

Imran Nazir
Imran Nazir
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I happened to watch his batting in the semi-final, against Rawalpindi and also in the final, against Karachi. While he failed to open his account in the final, he played some productive shots in the semi-final on his way to a quickfire 37, but these cannot be termed as good cricketing shots. They were just slogs, like a baseball player and not by one expected to be aware of fundamentals of batting in cricket.

Then, came the three-nation tournament at Sharjah. He was given ample chances, four to be exact, during the series, but apart from one innings of 35 (46 balls) against New Zealand, he was far from being impressive.

Fielding at point, the local press brackets him with Jonty Rhodes and Ricky Ponting (I hope these two don't know or a lawsuit might be around!). Well, there is exaggeration in this claim, just as there is in Afridi's case. Preferring to say no more, I leave the judgment to critics and cricket fans.

Shoaib Malik: I remember pointing out to the PCB Chairman, during the press conference, that Shoaib's action was reported as suspect in the Sharjah final and that the case was under review. The General replied, "not his action but a particular delivery of his is suspect, so we would forbid him from using that delivery". This was followed by a hearty laughter by the General and the pressmen. I thought to myself, it better be a joke because without that particular delivery, the so-called 'wrong'un', the bowler in question loses much of his effectiveness.

Notwithstanding the controversy hanging around his action, Shoaib is a useful player, especially for limited-overs cricket, who he can ably make up for any bowling lapses by getting quick runs down the order and bring about a few astonishing catches and run outs. He is thus an appropriate passenger on the England-bound flight.

All said and done, I would agree on the decision to recall Mohammad Wasim and send Afridi and Shoaib. However, calling back Mushtaq along with Imran Farhat and sending Imran Nazir to England is a decision that the selectors' may yet rue and perhaps reflects hastiness. One can also question, knowing the idiosyncrasies of Pakistan cricket, was it only the selectors or has the team management something to do with it?