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The Willow Talk by AK: Tough Choices ahead of first test

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tough Choices ahead of first test

Orginally published March 12, 2005
PakistaniCricket.net

With the first test looming, the Pakistan side has to make some "tough choices", as rightfully projected by Coach Woolmer. The batting order, though inexperienced, is filled with batters who are almost equally talented and it is anyone's guess what the composition of the top and middle order will be.

Will Yasir Hameed, someone whose showed glimpses of a return to form, get a place ahead of either Salman Butt or Taufeeq Umar? Or will the team management stick with the combo of Taufeeq and Salman that they tried out in the lone side match before the test rubber? Ideally you'd like to have a left-right opening combination but it would seem harsh to drop either Taufeeq or Salman. But it would be equally unfair if you drop a man who scored two half centuries in his last outing against the most fearsome attack in world cricket. In the writer’s opinion, the same pair that played the side game should feature in the first test because both the lefties have good potential and looked good in their short stay at the crease.

Who will figure in the 3-spot? Will Younis Khan get the nod ahead of Yasir? It will be a rarity if the vice captain gets benched. Younis is a courageous cricketer and has been improving as a batsman and he should have been given some time to establish himself further.

Then, what shape will the middle order take? Will Malik, essentially the MVP of the Pakistan team last year, get a chance ahead of Kamal, a genuine test batsman? Asim Kamal had a decent outing in the warm-up game and has been good with the willow of late. On the flip side, Malik has not done anything wrong to face the axe but at this stage of their careers, Kamal is a better test batsman then Malik.

Since test cricket is a game of specialists, a player should be able to seal his place in the team on the basis of batting or bowling alone. This is why the author thinks Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi do not make a final eleven. Abdul Razzaq rescued Pakistan in Dharamshala but few would argue that Shoaib Malik and Asim Kamal are better then both the all-rounders. If Inzy or Bob decide to play them as strike bowlers, then the Pakistan team is destined for failure. The bowling lineup, which already looks weak on paper, will also look horribly shallow.

The bowling is lineup is a little less tough to decide. Rana Naved, Mohammad Sami and Danish Kaneria are obvious selections. That leaves us with two specialists in Khalil and Arshad. Logic says that Arshad should be the obvious choice since Khalil is nothing more then a medium pacer who cant swing the ball any which way. Also, Arshad will help out Kaneria by bowling in tandem for long spells.

Tough choices? Yes. But the team management has to make them. And it is these very choices that might as well be the difference between winning and losing.


© Adeel Khan.

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