The Pakistan side selected to tour England does not contain any real surprises apart from the half expected surprise of Shoaib Akhtarâ€™s exclusion.
Somehow, the vibes that one was getting on the entire situation surrounding Shoaib were mixed, to say the least. There were all sorts of reports, ranging from his â€œdisappearance from the training camp, to the Boardâ€™s reported unhappiness over the fact that he was using his personal trainer rather than the Boardâ€™s official trainer.
Then came the ankle injury about which we first heard that it was not anything serious and that he would be back in training after a couple of days; this was followed by a comment attributed to the captain Inzamam revealing that Shoaib had suffered a fracture, which was denied again and finally the news that the injury to his ankle was serious enough to rule him out for a few weeks and hence from the first half of the tour.
At 30, I am sure I donâ€™t need to tell Shoaib that as a fast bowler, age and time are not on his side. It will take a great deal of commitment from him to get to full bowling fitness and to maintain that fitness. He has an action that literally hammers his body and therefore it will be a much harder task for him to keep himself match fit than it was for someone like say Wasim Akram who had a smooth, more natural and almost effortless action.
Shoaibâ€™s motivation, of course, has to come from the fact that it is cricket which has brought him to where he stands in life today and it is cricket that will determine where he goes from here and how he gets there. This is what he does best and this is where his legacy will rest. It is therefore up to him to make the necessary effort in this regard and deliver what the team and country expect of him on the basis of his undoubted talents.
I strongly feel that he does need to take part in this England series at some point or the other for if he does not, his sojourn from international cricket would have been very long â€” some would say too long â€” and the longer the break, the more difficult will be the road back.
How Pakistan fare on this tour will depend largely on the weather between now and the start of the Test series about a month away. At the moment England is about as hot as it gets around here but this will not last for a month. However, if there are some good periods of sunshine, the chances of the team doing well increase greatly. The batting will find it easier and Danish Kaneria will also find conditions more to his liking; in fact, by the latter part of the tour, if conditions are really warm, there may be a case of playing a second spinner.
Pakistan have just one specialised spinner in the squad and the possibility of playing Mushtaq Ahmad as a second spinner, if conditions justify such a step, is something that deserves serious consideration. Mushtaq has had a splendid season for Sussex so far although the month of May was one of the wettest and coldest for the last two decades. With harder and drier wickets, he would be more in his elements.
I know that the objection to this would be why play two leg spinners and the answer is see the Australians who, when conditions have supported such a move, have played both Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill. England have not had a good leg spinner in ages and they are therefore vulnerable to leg spin on a truly turning wicket. I feel that Mushtaq could well have a role to play on this tour and the team management should be conscious of this option.
Perhaps the only surprise is the selection of Shahid Nazir, although it would certainly be fair to say that if Shoaib Akhtar had been fit, he would not have been in the squad. He is not in the first flush of youth and has been in an out of international cricket â€” mostly out â€” so it is asking a lot of him to fill in for the charismatic Shoaib.
As for the opening slot, I donâ€™t think this is a problem that has been solved for none of the three selected for the job â€” Shoaib Malik, Salman Butt and Imran Farhat â€” have been able to convince me as genuine openers whereas the Indian opener Wasim Jaffer has. Without intimate knowledge of the Pakistan domestic scene, it is not possible to fault the selectors on this and blooding an new opener on an England tour is less than a good idea. One can only hope that this obvious vulnerability in the Pakistan line-up does not show up.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Wednesday, June 14th, 2006 and is filed under General.
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