Pakistan Cricket Board has announced their 15-man 2019 ICC World Cup squad and some of the decisions taken by the selectors are mind-boggling. The leaving out of Mohammad Amir is the most eye-catching decision but not unexpected due to his poor form. However, what is really surprising is the absence of Mohammad Rizwan and Usman Shinwari.
Mohammad Rizwan, the wicketkeeper-batsman who played the five-match ODI series against Australia recently and scored two hundreds, has been left out. This in spite of the fact that the incumbent – Sarfaraz Ahmed, also the skipper – hasn't been scoring too many runs in the shorter format. Yet, the selectors, headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq, ignored the scoring ability as well as the efficient wicketkeeping displayed by Rizwan. In fact, he is not even in the squad for the matches to be played in England prior to the big event. If scoring two hundreds in five matches and keeping wickets well is not enough to earn a spot in the team, then what is?
But that's not all! Usman Shinwari, a left-arm pacer who produced some good spells for Pakistan in their last two series, has also been kept out of the team. Yes, Shinwari didn't have a match-winning performance that ripped through the opposition batting line-up but nobody else did it either. What makes the whole thing even more baffling is that Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Hasnain have been included in the squad for the big event.
Ashraf is a decent seam bowler but has looked rather innocuous most of the time. Hasnain is a teenager who is considered very promising and shone into limelight after clocking speeds above 150/kph in Pakistan Super League. But he has played just 3 ODIs in his career. Bringing him directly on to the biggest stage is a big risk. Besides, Pakistan already has another bowler of almost the same age in Shaheen Afridi. Having two teenagers in the same squad might be a tad risky.
Reasons for the decision
The only possible reason for Shinwari's exclusion is the fact that he is a left-armer. With Junaid Khan and Shaheen Afridi already in the squad, probably the selectors didn't want another left-arm bowler. But they have picked Mohammad Amir, also a leftie, for the England series, thereby keeping him in the mix. So, why not Shinwari? Besides, if there can be three right-arm seamers – Ashraf, Hasnain and Hasan Ali – why can't there be three left-armers?
There is another pertinent question: If Amir and Asif Ali, a strong lower-order batsman, can be given the last opportunity to make it to the World Cup squad by being picked in the team for England series, why not Shinwari and Rizwan? What happens if Sarfaraz fails in the five ODIs against England? What if some of the pacers don't perform? Would it be feasible to make changes at the very last moment?
The selectors have left these questions hanging. They have, more importantly, continued the Pakistani tradition of making strange decisions which fly in the face of expectations. Pakistan may still do well in the World Cup but they are not giving themselves the best chance.