Pakistan’s selection conundrum: only one specialist batsman for all three formats
Pakistan cricket is unable to produce such batsmen who could perform well in all three formats of cricket. This is what acknowledged by the National Selection Committee when they announced the team for the upcoming tours of England and West Indies where Pakistan have to play ODIs, T20s, and Test matches. There is only one specialist batsman who could manage to ensure his place in all three teams announced for different formats. And that batsman is none other than captain Babar Azam.
Though Muhammad Rizwan has also succeeded to secure his position in all three formats, his specialty is wicket-keeping, so he can be categorised as an all-rounder. Even then his performance as a batsman is far better than most of the batsmen who represented Pakistan in all three formats. Former captain, Sarfraz Ahmed has also been selected for all three formats, but still, he will have to watch nearly all the matches as a spectator, because Rizwan is in such a great form that the captain would hardly think of a replacement.
In the all-rounder category, Faheem Ashraf and Muhammad Nawaz have been able to impress the selectors for a place in all three formats, by their performance in the international and domestic arena. In the bowling category, Hassan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi are undoubtedly the first-choice players for the selectors due to their consistent performances in the recent bilateral series. Hassan Ali, after gaining the fitness again, has never looked behind. He has been the best performer with the ball in series against South Africa and Zimbabwe, especially in Test cricket. He has also shown promise in the field of batting after the last domestic season where he made his maiden first-class century in the final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Selectors have once again shown confidence in Haris Rauf for all three formats due to his extraordinary speed. But still, he is to show consistency to cement his place in the team.
This situation is very unfortunate for Pakistan as they will have to play almost a new team in every third or fourth match of the two series. This not only prevents them from feeling a true team spirit but also keeps the players under immense pressure to cement their place in the team. This pressure normally affects the performance of the players and sometimes pushes them to become selfish for their individual achievements.
Many experts think that the selection committee should definitely give a chance to performers of the domestic cricket but at the same time, they should also avoid too much experimentation. Too much experimentation is the main hindrance in making a real team. If we look at the golden period of Pakistani cricket, we will be able to find that there would have been very few changes in different formats of cricket. The players were able to adapt themselves according to the needs of different formats.
This indicates the two-pronged problem of Pakistan Cricket. The first one is the real crisis of talent in Pakistan. Our domestic circuit is unable to produce capable batsmen due to its poor planning and secondly, the poor selection has made it difficult for the team to gel together. It seems that teams are being selected on the excel sheets instead of the cricket field. The data of all the domestic tournaments are put on an excel sheet which helps the selectors to find out the top performers by their individual performances and averages. For every new series, a new team is being selected. This is the easiest type of selection as selectors have a proper justification for their decisions.
Once the former Chairman Selection Committee/Coach Haroon Rasheed was asked why they didn’t give chance to great performers of domestic cricket. He replied,” Not all the players could handle the pressure of international cricket. A coach can easily judge the capability of the players in the nets. When these domestic performers are given the chance with the international players in the nets, their true potential is also exposed”. He was of the view that domestic figures didn’t necessarily portray the real capability of a player.
But where is the team? If you ask any of the cricket lovers in Pakistan he will not be able to name the possible lineup for the upcoming series. Normally, great cricketing nations stick with their main teams. Normally 8 to 9 players are considered as an automatic selection for all the formats of cricket. Two to three changes are made with the change of formats.
Unfortunately in Pakistan, we have just four players who are an automatic selection in the playing eleven of all the formats. And those are Babar Azam, Muhammad Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and Hassan Ali. Still, Faheem Ashraf, Muhammad Nawaz, Sarfraz Ahmed, and Haris Rauf are not the automatic selection for first-elevens of all three formats, despite the fact that they have been selected for those.