Discipline first

K Shahid lauds the new selection committee's stance on discipline, but believes it should be implemented across the board

Discipline first
On Sunday, new chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq announced 35 probables for PCB’s training camp ahead of Pakistan’s tour to England this summer. These were the squads announced:

Probables for Pakistan’s training camp: Mohammad Hafeez (subject to fitness), Sami Aslam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Azhar Ali, Sharjeel Khan, Khurram Manzoor, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail (subject to fitness), Khalid Latif, Fawad Alam, Akbar-ur-Rehman, Asif Zakir, Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Hasan Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Adnan Akmal, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Banar, Mohammad Asghar, Imad Wasim (subject to finess), Bilal Asif, Zohaib Khan.

Probables for Pakistan A’s tour of England: Fakhar Zaman, Jihad Ali, Mohammad Waqas, Zain Abbas, Israrullah, Umar Amin (subject to fitness), Abdul Rehman Muzammil, Saud Shakil, Abid Ali, Umar Siddique, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf, Amir Yamin, Mohammad Abbas, Azizullah, Mir Hamza, Ahmed Jamal, Imad Butt, Ziaul Haq, Saifullah Bangash, Mohammad Hasan, Usama Mir, Shadab Khan, Hidayatullah, Zafar Gohar.

There are three notable absentees: Shahid Afridi, Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal. The latter two were dropped over lack of discipline and Afridi was asked to ‘rest’ to give younger players a chance.
If the board and the selection committee are trying to set a precedent over discipline, no one should be above it

“First of all selection committee is totally independent. Board can guide us but even then selection committee will take its own decisions,” Inzamam said during a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium. “I have seen the previous reports of coach and selection committee and have also talked to other stakeholders of the team. So the selection committee has decided that if there’s a problem of discipline we have to take a step so it’s more on discipline grounds than performance. If we see any problem in discipline this selection committee will take tough decisions.”

Meanwhile, a day before the announcement, Younis Khan lifted the inaugural Pakistan Cup in Faisalabad as KP beat Punjab by 151 runs. Younis, who had fled the tournament after a tirade against the quality of umpiring, was fined and warned by the PCB. Younis’ first apology, despite being accepted, was considered insufficient to warrant a return to the tournament, according to PCB Chairman Shahryar Khan. But the board later changed its stance on its earlier claims of “making a statement” on discipline, allowing Younis to return in time for the final.

Zohaib Khan
Zohaib Khan

Notwithstanding Younis Khan’s world-beating contributions to the Test side and granted that he had apologised twice for his misconduct, but if the board and the selection committee are  trying to set a precedent over discipline then no one should be above it. As things stand, it seems like discipline was used as pretext to drop two players who might not be indispensible in English conditions anyway, while Younis would not only be needed, but would have to be at his very best for Pakistan to stand a chance in the Test series.

However, what made the selection committee’s decision with regards to Ahmed Shehzad all the more prominent was the fact that he was the Pakistan Cup’s leading run scorer with 372 runs at an average of 74.42 and a strike rate of 107.82. Comfortably the best numbers posted during the tournament.

The tournament itself proved to be a bit of an anticlimax for the selection committee, in that not many of the youngsters left an indelible mark on the tournament. It was a case of the usual suspects doing well in quintessential Subcontinent conditions.

Afridi, Akmal and Shehzad have been dropped from the PCB's training camp
Afridi, Akmal and Shehzad have been dropped from the PCB's training camp

32-year-old Zohaib Khan could be another late boomer for Pakistan after being the joint highest wicket-taker with 11 wickets and the 7th highest run-getter with 176 runs in the tournament.

Fakhar Zaman (KP) and Amad Butt (Punjab) were the two best performers among the younger lot, without any international caps and have been called up for the Pakistan A side that will tour England.

The biggest disappointment of the Pakistan Cup was how the Sindh team, after appearing to run away straight into the final during the early stages of the tournament, eventually capitulated - allowing Punjab a slot in the final.

Sindh’s opening duo Khurram Manzoor and Sami Aslam, who topped the runs charts early on, didn’t perform in the crunch matches. Mohammed Amir, the joint leading wicket-taker of the tournament, was once again left to rue his team’s performance after watching his T20 league teams and the Pakistan team failing to make a final since his return. Most critically though, newly appointed T20 captain Sarfraz Ahmed missed a chance to reaffirm his selection after watching his side drift away in the final stages of the group matches.

Salman Butt failed to impress and has subsequently not been included in the training camp either. “Salman is a very good player but he hasn’t played four-day games as yet. He has just played a one-day tournament after coming back after five and half years,” Inzamam said during the press conference. “I think he should play one season of four-day matches so that he can make a comeback in a better way.”

It’s positive to see the new chief selector exploring all his options and making all decisions accordingly. Discipline should continue to be a decisive factor in selections at all levels, with equal opportunities given to everyone past and present. Let’s hope this is a new start for Pakistan.