Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Imran Farhat, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal (wk), Shoaib Malik, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Raiz, Umar Gul, Junaid Khan
Standby players: Tanvir Ahmed, Mohammad Talha, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Yasir Shah
These were the Pakistan players selected for the three Teat series against Sri Lanka. The major talking point was the omission of Umar Akmal, and then the re-inclusion of both Imran Farhat and Shoaib Malik.
Here are my thoughts on the squad
There is little doubt in most peoples minds that Umar Akmal is a batting prodigy. We have seen the evidence of this in his century on debut against a rampant Shane Bond in New Zealand. Then further emphasised in his performances in his initial 4 Tests.
Where he score 457 runs at an average 57.12 with 1 century and 4 50's.
Sadly, for the legion of Pakistani fans, who were drooling in awe of his exploits. His performances since have been less than stellar
12 Tests, 22 innings, 546 runs, average 24.8, only 2 50's
On those figures alone, it could be justified the axing of Akmal. Putting figures aside, it could be viewed as a constructive axing with the future in mind
This by the fact with how Akmal in his tenure in the game has dealt with challenges. Shown when he was thrown out of the Lahore Cricket Academy by Mudasser Nasar due to his penchant for recklessness and avoidance of hard work. Told never to come back, he not only persuaded to be let back in, but then showed his renewed determination and dedication.
I allowed him back to see if he was indeed a changed character and what I saw then was someone who started to practice hard and take his cricket seriously". (Mudassar Nasar)
So with the words of Selector Mohsin Khan ringing in Umar's ears
"In Tests, Umar is required to play long innings so we have advised him to play domestic cricket and learn to bat for long."
You can bank on the intestinal fortitude that Akmal showed in his youth. He will replicate here, and return a better and more refined player in the Test arena
Jaded Veterans or Precociously Talented Youth?
In a Team that is commandeered by such veteran role models like Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Huq. It must be said that the decision to select both Imran Farhat and Shoaib Malik was rather curious.
Firstly on the selection of Farhat. There is no doubt that one of the major weaknesses in the Pakistan batting line up is in the opening position with both the current incumbents in Mohammad Harfeez and Taufeeq Umar yet to cement their credibility in the Test arena.
Though the selection of Farhat smacks of nepotism and of Ijaz Butt's for Lahore players. Then is so near sighted with Farhat being a tried and true failure in Test cricket. Greater sense would have been seen in selecting some of the precociously talented young top order players. Names such as Sharjeel Khan, Umar Amin or Rameez Raja would have been better selections.
Even selecting 76 year old Hanif Mohammad to open would have been smarter!
Secondly, the selection of Malik is not only ill advised, but indeed worrying. I say this for he is a player that has been associated many times with creating the damaging divisions withing the Team. That has plagued Pakistan cricket throughout its history. So he is needed like a hole in the head in a Team that has been symbolised by its harmony under Misbah's tenure.
Also throughout his 32 Test career, he has been admired for his abilities in many areas of the game, but has never shown a proficiency in any that he has dabbled in.
Greater sense would have been seen in selecting the big hearted and multi talented Fawad Alam. Who would have not only added to the Team with his abilities, but also the feel of the Team with his supreme character.
Let us hope, that the basis of Malik's selection hasn't been done as a precursor for him being inserted as a successor for Misbah as Captain.
For that would be cataclysmic for Pakistan's future
Can A Bowling Spearhead Emerge?
I must admit, I didn't cry at the birth of my kids or grand kids, but I cried when Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were lost to the game. Not because they weren't deserving of punishment, but because of in this the batting age, the loss of two such gifted bowlers was a tragedy for all cricket fans.
For Pakistan it was devastating, and they have been searching for a bowling spearhead ever since. They are well served in the spin department with the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Mohamad Harfeez and Abdur Rehman. Though success in this series against a Team like Sri Lanka, that is very adept at playing spin. Might come down to one of the Pakistani fast men stepping forward.
Fans will point to the very promising debut of Aizaz Cheema against Zimbabwe, where he took 8 wickets for the match as a potential to be a spearhead. Promising the performance was, but it can be diminished somewhat by the weakness of the opposition.
The two left armers in Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan are the best bets. This by the fact that both have all the skills necessary to be fine opening bowlers, and might use this series to announce themselves.
Let us hope for Pakistan they do!