How could Haider make it into the…?
Sarfaraz is there…Yes!
Here comes Malik… How?… Wow, the lucky guy, just boarded in the last minute… His last major outing might be lucky for the team!
No more Azam Khan…
Let’s all save our breaths for a bit.
There are customary three or four players whose selection in the Pakistan team is more often the talk of the town. The majority of the picks are straightforward unless someone becomes unfit, or there is a surprise or two as part of an experiment.
Any noteworthy tryout is rare these days, specifically before a mega event. The modern cricket management is supposed to carry out the experiments well before an event like the World Cup.
Nowadays, with the flourish of the media, the selection for any tournament or series in Pakistan is discussed and debated a lot. The World Cup selection would have had to take the centre stage.
The astonishing part is that all the hubbub, bickering, and contentions over selection are usually centered on the players who most likely would not make it into the starting lineup anyway. No disrespect to those players, but the ‘bench’ players are favoured in endless debates when they are least preferred in the final 11!
It makes perfect sense that the ‘stick’ players, whose inclusion raises no question, and is almost predetermined, would probably go on to take the opposition. Moreover, every match of the T20 World Cup is going to be crucial and a team like Pakistan is not fond of rotation or surprising the opposition. Therefore, the bunch of players would likely be persisted with.
In the finalisation of the team, the selection committee could least be placed in front of the burning media and the analysts who would question any major shakeup. Even with the unpredictable nature in an altogether different format, T20, it is almost impossible to have anything like the 1992 ODI World Cup which Pakistan had won in the 50-over format.
In the 1992 World Cup, even though there were a few forced last-minute changes amidst injuries, yet, Pakistan clearly had banked on the new players. Inzamam, Moin, Mushtaq, Amir, etc were tested not long before the World Cup and were preferred over some senior players.
Less media attention and the ‘firm’ hand of captain Imran Khan could well be the reason behind that. Remember the great Miandad, who was instrumental in the victory of ‘92, was first excluded from the final announced players; and with no media here, the international media like CNN had covered omission of Miandad as a breaking story. Even though it was quickly rectified, the mystery of ‘misprinting’ remains unsolved.
In the society where the cricket team selection is made the bone of contention, Pakistan — like India —is well on the route to adopt a ‘quota’ policy for the national team as the regional cricket association’s coaches input is made obligatory. For instance, Sarfaraz Ahmed’s fate in the World Cup is obvious with the established Rizwan, nevertheless, Sarfraz would carry the name of his region for Pakistan.
Furthermore, there is the involvement of the outspread media that enforces the already divided lines of national side’s selection. Social media carries special hashtags for, or against, the players based on ethnic identities. These groupings are not only confined to common people and social media stalwarts, but the politicians also jump to weigh in favour of cricketers belonging to their regions or ethnicities. This political pressure also forces the selection committee to compromise merit.
Paradoxically, it suggests the media and public opinion have little tolerance for a ‘family man’ in the national squad. First the selection of Imam-ul-Haq, and now Azam Khan, has faced the worst criticism. So it seems that it would be safer to drop Azam Khan in place an in-form Haider Ali.
For the in-and-out players, the show of form in the recently concluded National T20 has also become a major factor. Within the span of few months, the PSL stars Dahani, Hassnain, Azam, Khushdil have not been favoured for the final selection amidst the dip in form.
Even with the unpredictable nature in an altogether different format, it is almost impossible to have anything like the 1992 ODI World Cup
For teams like Pakistan, which have a ‘tradition’ of resisting the rotation policy and surprise the opposition teams, it is highly likely that more or less the same 11 would be preferred in each match of the World Cup. Though the traditional way of coaching under Misbah has been replaced, but given the record, attitude, and statements of Babar Azam it looks that only an injury or below-par performance could shake the already established balance.
The late inclusion of the veteran Shoaib Malik in place of injured Sohaib Maqsood would give incentive to the captain who seeks consistency and dependability in the middle order. With Hafeez in, the question is whether Pakistan would go for the two 40-year-olds in the side whose roles are very much similar. Besides grasping selection science, the 40-40 would also carry some mathematical resonance in the 20-20 format!