In his latest blog on PakPassion.net, Pakistan all-rounder Yasir Arafat writes about Inzamam-ul-Haq's first decisions as Chief Selector and his credentials for the role, the importance of regular Pakistan A and Under-19 tours, the futures of Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, and looks ahead to Pakistan's tour of England.
by Yasir Arafat (5th May 2016)
Shahid Afridi’s exclusion
I fully respect Inzamam-ul-Haq’s decision as a selector to leave out Shahid Afridi however, I feel that it would have been better if Afridi had made the decision himself. The Pakistan Cricket Board could have had a discussion with him and stated their intentions to leave him out so that in the meantime he could announce his retirement. Afridi has served Pakistan for the last 20 years and therefore this call seems somewhat unfair. The PCB should have spoken to Afridi privately beforehand as I feel this decision should have been Afridi’s own, but he should have taken it after the World Twenty20 particularly after the criticism he received.
Having said that, I believe that Shahid Afridi intended to announce his retirement after the World Twenty20 which would have been the right decision - to exit after a major tournament. We all expected him to retire after the tournament and it was a surprise when he didn’t. In the end the selectors were forced into making the decision to drop him which must be quite difficult for Afridi to take. As far as the PCB are concerned, they had to take this tough decision at some point, whether that was now or in the future is moot. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of this decision, one must accept that Inzamam is a big personality and he will feel that he has made the correct choice.
Dropping Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal for disciplinary reasons
Inzamam has made this decision in order to set an example. In the past, players have been dropped for disciplinary reasons and then recalled shortly afterwards without any reason or as a result of media pressure. Earlier selectors were probably weak and couldn’t handle this pressure whereas Inzamam has a strong personality. He will back the decisions he makes and will set an example. He wants to create an environment of zero tolerance on any disciplinary issues. I think Inzamam has taken a great step and the players dropped will have an opportunity to fix themselves in domestic cricket, improve their attitudes and only then perhaps return to the Pakistan team.
Inzamam’s strengths as Chief Selector
Inzamam has served Pakistan for seventeen to eighteen years and put in great performances for Pakistan. He has a stature and is known all over the world. He has seen the ups and downs of Pakistan cricket and no one has a bad word to say against him. He has kept himself out of the media limelight and out of cricket generally since his retirement, but he has now returned to the PCB after nine years and I’m sure he will make a positive impact. He has already made these strong decisions as you would expect from someone like Inzamam and I am confident he will do well in his new role. We need to back Inzamam as a selector as he is taking decisions for the betterment of Pakistan cricket and we will see the results of his decisions in the next year or so in terms of what he has done well and what he has done badly.
Pakistan Cup performers
From what I followed during the Pakistan Cup, Fakhar Zaman performed admirably and his selection in the Pakistan A camp is well deserved. Inzamam also mentioned Amad Butt and Hasan Ali who impressed him during the tournament so it’s good to see them selected and I hope they go on to perform well and win a place in the Pakistan team. Inzamam can only go by what he has seen and he appears to have done the right thing by selecting players who did well in the Pakistan Cup.
Importance of Pakistan A tours and improvements to the domestic structure
Having Pakistan A playing alongside the senior team in England is a fantastic move. The Pakistan A team and Under-19 team must have two or three overseas tours every year. All the strong Pakistan players from the ‘90s and early 2000s came through domestic, Under-19 and the Pakistan A team. It becomes a ladder to go up in order to get into the Pakistan side. Young players would perform at domestic level and then go on Under-19 tours. They would then return to domestic cricket and if they continued to do well they would make the Pakistan A team. They would then need to perform on overseas Pakistan A tours at which point they would make the national side. This way Pakistan would produce two or three excellent new players every year. So this is an excellent step and it’s important it is done on a regular basis. Another benefit of having the Pakistan A tour simultaneously is that if there are any injuries, the backups are ready and already acclimatised so can step straight into the Pakistan team.
There also needs to be more investment and more planning in domestic cricket. The recent Pakistan Cup was announced a week or so before it started which really is not the way forward. If you look at county cricket in England, the schedule is announced many months in advance and a player always knows when and where he is going to be playing. Whenever there is a big failure at a World Cup everyone blames domestic cricket, so there needs to be an improvement and above is a good example of what I mean by this. Our cricket in the ‘90s and early 2000s had an abundance of Under-19 and Pakistan A tours so the PCB needs to revive this aspect of our cricket. If they can do this, then we will see a marked improvement in the Pakistan team. Otherwise I don’t see us returning to the heights we reached previously.
Returns for Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif
Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif have been asked to play a season of First-Class cricket before they are considered for selection which I think is an excellent decision. Other selectors may have succumbed to media pressure and picked these guys but Inzamam has made it clear that one can ultimately only win a place in the Pakistan team by performing at the domestic level. These two have been away from cricket for five years and haven’t even played any Four-Day cricket yet. You cannot select them for the Pakistan team solely on the basis of their performances in a few One-Day matches. So an example is being set that no matter how big a star you may be, you can only get into the Pakistan team by performing in domestic cricket rather than as a result of pressure from the media or any sort of nepotism.
Pakistan’s chances in England
Most teams have struggled recently when touring England, even Australia did during the last Ashes series. It all depends on the preparation – the fitness camp is an excellent idea as the players will be physically ready for the tour and after that there will be practice matches which need to be utilised properly in order for the players to be prepared for the tour. Experience counts the most on such tours so the performances of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq will be crucial. On previous tours, the big names like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf have scored runs to ensure the team gets a fighting total and competes on a level-footing with England, so in this case Younis and Misbah will need to do something similar to give Pakistan a fighting chance.
As far as our bowling is concerned, it is generally good but the bowlers will need to remain fit for the duration of the series and will need to bowl in the right areas for the conditions.
Amir will be returning to England for the first time after the spot-fixing scandal and will be heavily in the limelight – he may also get some stick from the fans. Ultimately it’s his performance that will count, if he does well than people will sing his praises once more as the past is quickly forgotten. Fans generally base their opinions on current performances rather than what has happened before so if Amir performs he will get applauded and it will further boost his confidence. If not, he will get criticism especially from the English media who will closely monitor everything he does. They will write articles and look to apply pressure on him but he’s mentally quite strong. He has done well recently on his return and I think he will overcome the situation when he comes to England.
Return to Somerset
I have returned to Somerset this season having played here in 2013. I’ve already arrived in Taunton and begun training. I have some great memories of playing here having performed well in the past and I’m really looking forward to it again. We will have some very good players this season in Chris Gayle and Mahela Jayawardene, and of course Marcus Trescothick is already here. So it will be a great experience to play with and learn from these guys. Hopefully I can also impart some of my knowledge on the junior players so they can develop and blossom in future.