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  1. #1
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    Selecting veterans and kids in the era of the World Test Championship

    The World Test Championship is well under way now. And Pakistan has precisely 0 points.

    The world has changed somewhat. Three years ago after losing the First Test in New Zealand, Pakistan was cruising at Tea on the Final Day in Hamilton at 158-1, with a theoretical target of 369 to win. They had a go, and lost.

    In the era of the World Test Championship, this loss would have earned them 0 points while New Zealand took 60 points. But a draw would have brought both teams 20 points. The lesson to draw in the World Test Championship era is that you can't afford to be blanked nowadays. Which is important - on the last tour of Australia, in the Second Test Pakistan declared their First Innings (really!!!) and was 6-1 at Lunch on the Final Day, and again could have ended up with 20 points by drawing under the new regulations.

    If there is a lesson it is that teams need to rediscover how to avoid defeat overseas.

    And I would add a second one - now that almost every series counts towards the World Test Championship, every team needs a core of players aged 20-30 who are not just at their peak now, they are going to be around to use their experience in the 2021-23 and 2023-25 cycles.

    So let's get the language right.

    If you are already in your thirties, you are an overage player, because chances are that you won't contribute much to later World Test Championship cycles.

    And if you are still in your teens you are an underage player - you may lack the toughened body to perform now (Naseem Shah) or the core skills (Musa Khan).

    That issue of optimal age is desperately important - by the time of the third World Test Championship Final, for example, Zafar Gohar will be 28 years and 5 months old, while his of major competitors Mohammad Asghar will be 26 years 6 months old, Nauman Ali will be 38 years and 9 months old and Kashif Bhatti will be 39 years and 11 months old.

    So realistically, of these 4 currently uncapped bowlers:
    Zafar Gohar is a prospect for 4 World Test Championship cycles.
    Mohammad Asghar is a prospect for 5 cycles.
    Nauman Ali is a prospect for this cycle only.
    Kashif Bhatti is a prospect for this cycle only.

    But look at what has happened instead.

    By the start of this year, in the last Test that Pakistan played before Misbah’s appointment, and in the most similar conditions in the world (South Africa as opposed to Australia), Inzamam and Mickey Arthur had in place a team in which there were:

    7 players in the starting eleven aged 20-29,
    3 overage players in their thirties (Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed, as Yasir Shah had been dropped in favour of Shadab Khan who scored a fifty and took 4-80)
    1 underage player in his teens (Shaheen Shah Afridi).

    What was the problem outside Asia?
    Pakistan lost in South Africa because all the players aged over 30 failed repeatedly and because Fakhar Zaman was wrongly tried in the Test format.

    What was the problem in Asia?
    I freely admit that they lost in the UAE because Mickey Arthur did not pick enough spinners. He had been seduced into this by the success of his South Africans with a four man pace attack in Pakistan a decade earlier, and he failed to realise that UAE pitches were even slower and flatter.

    But that could easily be fixed by calling up Zafar Gohar (aged 24) and Sajid Khan (aged 26). It didn't require an entire squad of players in their twenties to be sacked.

    What changes did Misbah make?
    Misbah has basically dismantled the Inzamam/Arthur team.

    Where previously there were 7 starters aged 20-29, in the very next Test at Brisbane there were just 3.

    A glut of overage players were recalled, but they were ones with terrible current domestic numbers (Imran Khan and Yasir Shah averaging 40 with the ball, Iftikhar having scored a grand total of 35 domestic runs.)

    And even though he already had one teenager in the starting eleven, Misbah as Chief Selector chose 3 teenagers in his 5 fast bowlers for a tour of Australia, while the other two quicks were veterans who can't get their average pace above 125K!

    Five quicks for a tour of Australia left virtually no provision for loss of form or injuries. But to make things worse:

    3 of the 5 quicks were teenagers.
    2 of the 5 quicks were in their thirties (Abbas is still supposedly 3 months away, but does anybody believe that?)
    1 of the 5 quicks was above the generally recognised minimum height to be successful in Australia.
    0 of the 5 quicks was a competent batsman.

    Were there alternative quicks whom Misbah could have selected?
    Ehsan Adil and Sameen Gul were both doing better in domestic cricket than Imran, Abbas, Musa or even Shaheen. And they are both 6’4 in height, are both significantly quicker than Imran and Abbas and are both aged in their twenties.

    And you now have to question the exclusion of Faheem Ashraf. In the previous Test he had taken 6-99 in similar conditions, and then his white ball contract in England was upgraded to a red ball one.

    Misbah dropped a guy who took 6-99 in the previous Test, and who is 27 years old.

    Sure, nobody can doubt the selection of Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is 6’6 tall and bowls 135-143K. His figures in Australia were:
    64 overs
    12 maidens
    184 runs
    5 wickets at an average of 36.80 and an economy rate of 2.88

    But the other 4 quicks – 2 veterans and 2 kids in the form of Imran, Abbas, Musa and Naseem - had combined figures of:

    73 overs
    12 maidens (7 bowled by Abbas when he cut back his length and gave up trying to take wickets)
    345 runs
    2 wickets at an average of 172.50 and an economy rate of 4.73

    What kind of solution is this?
    The World Test Championship is a rolling tournament which never stops. The days of experimenting with kids or of fielding a veteran team in which key players will later retire simultaneously are over.

    So why do people think that it is as reasonable to select Kashif Bhatti (aged 33) as an uncapped slow left-arm spinner ahead of Zafar Gohar who is 8 years younger?

    At the other extreme, why is it okay to pick 3 teenagers in a group of 5 fast bowlers in Australia?

    Surely the arrival of the World Test Championship requires a less scattergun approach to selection.

    Surely the Chief Selector needs to base his team around players aged 20 to 30, with 1 or 2 older players selected only if they are in spectacular recent form, and 1 or 2 younger players only if their bodies can manage the workload of a man, and if they have learned the skills (accuracy for a bowler, sound defence for a batsman) to make them a dependable member of the team.

    The Test squad to Australia was as follows:
    Azhar – overage player – Failed
    Abbas – overage player – Failed
    Iftikhar – overage player – Failed
    Abid Ali – overage player – Unused
    Shaheen – underage player – Passed
    Babar Azam – player in his twenties – Succeeded
    Kashif Bhatti – overage player – Unused
    Imran Khan – overage player – Failed
    Shan Masood – borderline for age – Passed
    Muhammad Musa – underage player – Failed
    Mohammad Rizwan – player in his twenties – Succeeded
    Asad Shafiq – overage player – Failed
    Naseem Shah – underage player – Failed
    Yasir Shah – overage player – Failed
    Haris Sohail – borderline for age – Failed
    Imam-ul-Haq – player in his twenties – Failed

    Only 3 players in their twenties were selected – and 2 of them succeeded.
    6 clearly overage players were selected, and none of them succeded.

    This World Test Championship runs into the next one, and so on. Surely what is required now is the selection of a sustainable squad of players, at least 80% of whom are aged in their twenties and therefore are experienced and effective enough to contribute fully today, while being young enough to use this experience in later cycles of the World Test Championship.
    Last edited by Junaids; 4th December 2019 at 03:57.

  2. #2
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    The UAE losses to SL and NZ were purely down to sarfaraz Azhar and shafiq. All the other batters were young ( or making returns)
    and we should have chased 135 in the first test Vs SL and 170 in first test Vs NZ. We bossed the first test for 85 % of it and 12 days out of 15 in the NZ series only to toss away the advantage.

    The guys who had played 50 plus games should be owning those situations.


    If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got #improve

  3. #3
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    You should be our new CS, you will clearly do better than misbah

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abdullah View Post
    The UAE losses to SL and NZ were purely down to sarfaraz Azhar and shafiq. All the other batters were young ( or making returns)
    and we should have chased 135 in the first test Vs SL and 170 in first test Vs NZ. We bossed the first test for 85 % of it and 12 days out of 15 in the NZ series only to toss away the advantage.

    The guys who had played 50 plus games should be owning those situations.
    All 3 seniors should have been kicked out, sadly only one has. Imam is bad, so actually it's good he is gone . hopefully be kicked out. The likes of fawad and Sami can replace.
    Last edited by sweep_shot; 4th December 2019 at 08:53.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunny_majoka View Post
    You should be our new CS, you will clearly do better than misbah
    You know, it’s no disaster to get it wrong first time.

    But it is a disgrace to fail with such a random, unscientific, scattergun approach to selection.

    Misbah needs to learn NEW lessons fast. When he was the skipper he had experienced selectors giving him a squad. But he has let down his captain now by giving him a completely unsuitable attack for this tour.

    Some posters whom I respect - I’m thinking of @Hawkeye - have a lot of respect for Misbah and wish him well.

    But I am sure that even they accept that the bowling attack was badly selected and was chosen without any sort of factual analysis or anticipation of what could go wrong.

    Sure, they want him to stay and I want him to go.

    But ultimately all of us want a well-selected team, based not just on short-term considerations or vague potential for the distant future.

    Misbah has shown us that he has no concept of a team needing a core group aged 20-29 with the odd overage and underage player sprinkled into the mix.

    He has done it his way, and suffered Pakistan’s worst ever Test series humiliation - they took 13 wickets in 2 Tests and lost them both by an innings!

    Now Misbah needs to show some humility and change. Because the hallmark of good selection is that the squad is so obvious that nobody disagrees with it.

    Yet literally no other Pakistani would have had Kashif, Imran, Iftikhar and Musa wasting four squad positions, and probably most others realised that Azhar and Yasir had no prospect of success either.

    That’s half the positions in the squad flushed down the toilet before they even flew to Australia. Not only is it not good enough, it suggests that Misbah needs to be taught the basic principles of sustainable squad selection.
    Last edited by Junaids; 4th December 2019 at 08:48.

  6. #6
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    1. Your criteria for what is failure is lacking.

    2. Are two test matches enough to determine failure?

  7. #7
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    Brother @Junaids I admire your passion for the game. You have your viewpoint but we have to give a chance to the new management. Nothing can be judged from their first series which was also an away one to Aus.

    Right now it's all speculation x or y would've done wonders in Aus. We don't have good enough players, have to build them.
    Last edited by Hawkeye; 4th December 2019 at 10:21.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkeye View Post
    Brother @Junaids I admire your passion for the game. You have your viewpoint but we have to give a chance to the new management. Nothing can be judged from their first series which was also an away one to Aus.

    Right now it's all speculation x or y would've done wonders in Aus. We don't have good enough players, have to build them.
    My point is not really about individuals.

    It is that now that we have a rolling, neverending World Test Championship, every country’s selectors need to work in a systematic way to build teams with a core of players in their twenties.

    We already see this on football: after every World Cup the oldest players are discarded on the basis that they are not likely to be at the same level in 4 years.

    I think that Misbah and all future Pakistan Chief Selectors need clear performance targets:

    All Test squads to contain:

    1. At least 10 players aged 20-29.
    2. No more than 2 players over the age of 30.
    3. No more than 2 players under the age of 20.
    4. No uncapped or recalled players over the age of 28 unless they have an outstanding record in the most recent QEA competition.
    5. A minimum of 4 bowlers aged 20-29.

    These aren’t anti-performance quotas like the South African racial quotas. These are rules to ensure player development and to prevent the wrong players from being selected.

  9. #9
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    First time I am hearing the name Sajid Khan on PP. Is he any good or another random name thrown by @Junaids as he always does?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Junaids View Post
    My point is not really about individuals.

    It is that now that we have a rolling, neverending World Test Championship, every country’s selectors need to work in a systematic way to build teams with a core of players in their twenties.

    We already see this on football: after every World Cup the oldest players are discarded on the basis that they are not likely to be at the same level in 4 years.

    I think that Misbah and all future Pakistan Chief Selectors need clear performance targets:

    All Test squads to contain:

    1. At least 10 players aged 20-29.
    2. No more than 2 players over the age of 30.
    3. No more than 2 players under the age of 20.
    4. No uncapped or recalled players over the age of 28 unless they have an outstanding record in the most recent QEA competition.
    5. A minimum of 4 bowlers aged 20-29.

    These aren’t anti-performance quotas like the South African racial quotas. These are rules to ensure player development and to prevent the wrong players from being selected.
    It doesn't work like that and it's neither realistic nor practical. No cricket nation does this.

    For example, almost everyone is above 30 in IND's team. The great Aussie side all had oldies, at least most of them in their 30s.

    Even a decade or so back when Kohli and Rohit were young, early twenties, IND s team had experienced players around them above 30.

    To develop young players you need experienced people around you.
    Last edited by Hawkeye; 4th December 2019 at 17:39.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkeye View Post
    It doesn't work like that and it's neither realistic nor practical. No cricket nation does this.

    For example, almost everyone is above 30 in IND's team. The great Aussie side all had oldies, at least most of them in their 30s.

    Even a decade or so back when Kohli and Rohit were young, early twenties, IND s team had experienced players around them above 30.

    To develop young players you need experienced people around you.
    My friend, I have already written that the difference is that the great Aussie team’s veterans were great, and that many of them were dumped earlier than they wanted to go.

    Look at Pakistan now, I will provide two examples.

    Kashif Bhatti and Zafar Gohar do the same job. Two slow left armers who can bat a bit.

    Bhatti is 33 and has played 83 First Class matches, while Zafar is 24 and has played 37 matches. To me the potential and age of Zafar - plus his decent amount of experience - make him a far better investment for selection now.

    A similar story exists with Iftikhar and Shadab Khan. Neither will ever be a fully fledged batsman or bowler.

    Iftikhar looks to be in his mid-thirties and after 65 First Class matches has never reached a batting average of 40, or an average of 1 wicket per game. He has 48 runs in 3 Tests at an average of 9.60.

    Shadab is 21. His First Class batting average is still lower than Iftikhar’s, but he has 3 fifties in 5 Tests and a Test average of 34.28 with the bat, as well as 12 wickets in 5 Tests. And he has won an ICC Champions Trophy.

    Again it seems plain obvious to me that Shadab is not just a better investment than Iftikhar, with more potential, but he has also already achieved more as a Test Cricketer.

    Misbah has taken Pakistan back to an age of “seniority”. But frankly, I am certain that Australian or English or Kiwi selectors would pick Zafar Gohar ahead of Kashif Bhatti and Shadab Khan ahead of Iftikhar.

    In both cases - and that of Imran Khan - the additional “experience” is utterly worthless.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_gamer007 View Post
    First time I am hearing the name Sajid Khan on PP. Is he any good or another random name thrown by @Junaids as he always does?
    He is currently looking the best off spinner in the domestic cricket at the moment. What I have seen of him, he looks pretty impressive as the stats of QAE trophy 2019 also show. He has a really good action and gets decent loop and spin. He can bat a bit as well which is a bonus. Definitely someone to look out for amongst the spinners.

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    Excellent OP. The team management have lurched from one extreme to another in their selections without finding a middle ground.

    My only disagreement is on Faheem Ashraf. He's incapable of building an innings with the bat as demonstrated by his appalling batting averages in international cricket and manner of dismissals. His Test bowling average is only based on a small sample playing in favourable seam conditions, he'll offer nothing with the old Kookaburra.

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    Agree with most of it. Misbah is hell bent in not only dismantling Inzi/Mickey team but getting all his oldie buddies in and making it a Dad's Army. It's already become a laughing stock.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kroll View Post
    Agree with most of it. Misbah is hell bent in not only dismantling Inzi/Mickey team but getting all his oldie buddies in and making it a Dad's Army. It's already become a laughing stock.
    Do you really think that is the only objective of Misbah. Do you take him for a fool? Don't you think he doesn't realize he needs to show results else he will be sacked? *** he was our captain in the most turbulent of times and came out successfully and retired with dignity which most of Pakistani legendary cricketers haven't got.

    Misbah knows what he's doing. He has shown he is ready to give youngsters a chance by selecting Naseem, Musa, and Shaheen as our pace attack. Just give him some more time. The kind of arrogance that is on display here makes you think Pakistan has not lost in Australia even a single time in the last 25 years.


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