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Pakistan's new ODI team - Part 2

In Part 1, I wrote about the players that need to be dropped from Pakistan's ODI squad. Just to reiterate, these players are: Misbah, Younis, Malik, Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Farhat, and Gul.In Part 2 of "Pakistan's new ODI team", I am going to talk about ...

In Part 1, I wrote about the players that need to be dropped from Pakistan’s ODI squad. Just to reiterate, these players are: Misbah, Younis, Malik, Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Farhat, and Gul.

In Part 2 of “Pakistan’s new ODI team”, I am going to talk about those players that should make up Pakistan’s ODI squad.

New ODI Captain: Mohammad Hafeez

With Misbah out of the picture, which should be forced by the PCB if Misbah does not do it himself, Pakistan will need a new ODI captain. And I think the obvious choice is Mohammad Hafeez.

Hafeez has led the T20 team with reasonable success and has shown that he can carry the batting with responsibility as well when leading the side. He showed that during the T20 World Cup, in the series against India, and the only T20 against South Africa.

There is no doubt in my mind that he should be leading the ODI team as well. He has got ample captaincy experience in domestic cricket and has also been among the think tank of Pakistan’s international sides for the past 3 years along with Misbah and Afridi.

His role as opener is debatable given his recent failures and despite the fact that he has been Pakistan’s most successful opener since the heydays of Saeed Anwar. His exact role in the batting line up will be clearer as I outline the other players that should be drafted into Pakistan’s ODI squad.

The OPENERS: Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali

Nasir Jamshed

Nasir Jamshed is one for the future and I still can’t believe that Misbah and Whatmore decided to dump him after 3 ODIs against South Africa.

Don’t forget this was the first time in his life that Nasir was batting outside the subcontinent. We need to be more patient with the ones that have been earmarked for the future. Nasir needs to open for Pakistan in every game and he needs to be given the license to play his natural form of attacking cricket.

Ahmed Shehzad never deserved to be dropped when he was from the ODI team in 2011. He paid the price for being part of the “Shahid Afridi camp” and has remained out of favour with Misbah, much like Umar Akmal.

There have been talks about disciplinary issues and attitude problems, again like Umar Akmal, but he is too good a talent to be wasted because of all that. Why can’t we have better management to take care of these so called disciplinary issues?

After all, Shoaib Akhtar managed to play for 15 years. Who can be a bigger disciplinary headache than he was?

Ahmed Shehzad

As an 18-year-old, Shehzad began his ODI career with solid 40s in 2 ODIs against Australia in 2009. When he returned to the team later, he formed a solid opening partnership with Hafeez. Having made another comeback, albeit in T20s once Hafeez became captain, Shehzad has shown what Pakistan has been missing.

There can’t be a better partner for Nasir than Ahmed Shehzad at the top of the order for Pakistan.

Azhar Ali is considered slow and not one suited for ODIs, but I beg to differ. He has a very good ODI record and averages over 40 in the 14 ODIs that he has played for Pakistan. He is not an attacking player but yet extremely solid and Pakistan can do with his services with Misbah and Younis out of the picture.

I would not select him to open ahead of Nasir or Shehzad, but under certain circumstances, Azhar can be preferred, especially if the team requires someone to hold one end up and bat out 50 overs.

Azhar should be in Pakistan’s ODI squad as the reserve opener and his case has been further strengthened by his recent performance in the just concluded Faysal Bank ODI Cup where he was 5th highest run scorer with 336 runs in 7 innings at an average of 67 and a healthy strike rate of 74, with 1 century and 2 fifties.

The MIDDLE ORDER: Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Sohaib Maqsood

Umar Akmal

I have already said it, but I will say it again – Misbah should be made to pay for keeping Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq on the bench in South Africa. Umar is by far Pakistan’s best ODI batsman and has been for the past 3 years, while Asad was in the form of his life during the Test series against South Africa and looked like the most accomplished batsman on tour.

How these two cannot make it to Pakistan’s playing XI is bemusing to say the least.

The other two batsmen that I would like to see drafted in and made permanent fixtures are Haris Sohail and Sohaib Maqsood.

Haris Sohail has been part of Pakistan’s squad several times during the past 1 year and was unlucky to leave the South Africa tour midway due to injury. He has been the best batsman in domestic cricket for the past several seasons and deserves to be given a long run in the middle for Pakistan.

Sohaib Maqsood, a 25-year-old hard hitting batsman from Multan, is relatively unknown but he has had a major resurgence as a batsman in the past season. And he is a more than decent off-spinner as well.

Sohaib was the leading batsman in the just concluded Faysal Bank ODI Cup, notching 475 runs in only 6 innings with 1 century and 3 fifties at a mind-boggling average of 95 and strike rate of 112! Sohaib’s List-A career gives an impressive reading as well: 26 matches, 972 runs, average of 46, strike rate of 97, 1 century, 6 fifties.

He also has an impressive first class record with over 2,700 runs in 42 matches at an average of 43, with 6 centuries and 18 fifties.

Given the form he is in, Sohaib should walk right into Pakistan’s ODI team. In his most recent List-A match, he knocked his first List-A century in a whirlwind knock of 156 off only 95 deliveries including 10 sixes and 13 fours.

FILE PHOTO: Anwar Ali

We still haven’t found an able replacement for Abdul Razzaq and with Afridi out of the team (based on my assessment), it has become even more important to find a world class all-rounder.

Hammad Azam is another player who has been harshly treated by the selectors and the team management. He hardly got to play when he was part of Pakistan’s T20 and ODI squads when he showed his immense talent, and then one fine day he found himself out of the team.

Why is it something that no one really has the answer to?

His bowling requires a lot of work and it will develop with time. It is his hard hitting batting that Pakistan require lower down the order given their longish tail. Hammad is the ideal batsman to come at number 6 or 7 in the finishing overs of an ODI and provide the sort of impetus to the innings that the likes of Razzaq have in the past.

He is a true finisher and has continuously displayed his finishing skills for Pakistan U-19 and his domestic teams.

His bowling is medium pace at best but he has the ability to pick up wickets regularly. His first class bowling record is a lot better than his List-A one, however it is an area that can be worked on and improved with time. What is more important is to draft him into the team and provide Pakistan with a lower order batsman and possible 6th bowler.

The other potential all-rounder that Pakistan will do well to invest in is Anwar Ali. The boy who rocked India’s boat in the U-19 World Cup Final back in 2006 had turned out to be quite a fine bowler and hard hitting lower order batsman.

He has played the solitary T20 for Pakistan against Zimbabwe in 2008. He was a part of the squads for the series against Australia and India but did not get another match. Both his List A and first class averages for batting and bowling are in the 20s, which show that the boy has got the potential to fill in the vacant all-rounder’s spot in Pakistan’s ODI line-up.

The SPINNERS: Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Raza Hasan

Abdur Rehman has found it difficult to get a game in the presence of Ajmal, Afridi, and Hafeez. With Afridi moving on (hopefully), Rehman should be considered as a starting choice to partner Ajmal and Hafeez in ODIs.

It is Pakistan’s misfortune that Rehman belongs to the same generation as Saeed Ajmal, for any other team (besides India) would kill to have the services of a bowler like Rehman.

Raza Hasan

Raza Hasan had an extremely impressive T20 World Cup, but has been out of contention due to injury since then. He needs to be promoted from T20 cricket to ODIs as well. Pakistan should focus on providing him with as much exposure as possible while Ajmal and Rehman are around for Raza is the future of Pakistan spin bowling.

The FAST BOWLERS: Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Ali, Sadaf Hussain

There is no argument over the fact that Junaid and Irfan are Pakistan’s leading pacers at the moment. We need to think long and hard about the others who can support them, as I would seriously like to move on from Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Sami et al.

Both Asad Ali and Sadaf Hussain have had very impressive domestic careers thus far.

Asad has 85 wickets in only 45 List-A games at a remarkable average of 19 and strike rate of 25.8, while Sadaf has 25 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 23 and strike rate of 30.6. Their first class records are even more impressive.

It is time that Pakistan invests in these new pace bowlers and takes us back to the times when Pakistan’s pacers used to be feared all around the world.

The WICKET KEEPER: Mohammad Rizwan

This was the toughest person to pick, largely due to the lack of talent on the domestic circuit. We have had enough of Kamran Akmal while Sarfraz Ahmed showed that he doesn’t belong to the international level, and Adnan Akmal is best suited to Test cricket.

What Pakistan need is a wicket-keeper who not only bats well but bats aggressively. That is the requirement of T20 and ODI cricket in this day and age.

The reason I have gone for Mohammad Rizwan is because he is young (only 20), has an impressive domestic record (average of 44 in first class cricket and 34 in List-A cricket), and he had the 2nd highest number of dismissals in the Faysal Bank One Day Cup.

It is time to invest in the youth.

Pakistan’s ODI Pool of Players: Mohammad Hafeez (C), Nasir Jamshed, Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Sohaib Maqsood, Hammad Azam, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Ali, Sadaf Hussain, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Raza Hasan.

If these 18 names are not part of the 30-man preliminary squad that the PCB is supposed to announce soon for the Champions Trophy, I will be disappointed.

I doubt that they will take away the captaincy from Misbah, but they really should. The argument that selecting a new team for a high profile tournament is not a wise decision, does not hold for me. The so-called senior players have failed continuously and with them there is no way that Pakistan can win the Champions Trophy, so they might as well try out some new players and provide them with much needed exposure.

Plus, Pakistan will play 2 ODIs against Ireland and 2 ODI against Scotland prior to the Champions Trophy, which are ideal to blood these new players and try out the new ODI combination.

It’s time PCB made some tough calls.

My ideal XI to start with would be: 1. Nasir Jamshed 2. Ahmed Shehzad 3. Mohammad Hafeez* 4. Umar Akmal 5. Asad Shafiq 6. Hammad Azam / Sohaib Maqsood 7. Mohammad Rizwan+ 8. Anwar Ali 9. Junaid Khan 10. Saeed Ajmal 11. Mohammad Irfan

Published with permission from WellPitched.

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