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Pakistan’s Surprise Selections for the World Cup

The consecutive defeats of Pakistan in the last few months has lowered their confidence. They needed some veteran players to strengthen their backbone. Will their decision to have Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz in the team help them win?

Ritik Goel
Last updated: 01.06.2019
Mohammad Amir Wahab Riaz

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In sports, the experience is invaluable. It is something which cannot be bought in a market. Nor does it come to someone naturally as skill does. On several occasions, we have seen that the teams which are struggling to succeed approaching their senior players and those players often make a mark on the big stage.

Pakistan have done something similar. Once upon a time, they were the most feared bowling side under a charismatic leader, Imran Khan. Things have turned on their head of late. It’s not that the country is not producing good bowlers, but these bowlers are still raw and far from being genuine match-winners yet.

Pakistan have lost 10 One-Day Internationals on the trot. That is certainly not a good reading going into the World Cup 2019. Surprisingly, it’s their bowling that has let them down. Consequently, the selectors have taken a radical step just at the eleventh hour to turn things around. They have included Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz in the final squad for the World Cup 2019.


Inzamam-Ul-Haq may have had the flashbacks of the past two World editions where Wahab Riaz got the batsmen jumping on their feet. In the Semi-final of 2011 against India, he put on a masterclass by destroying an in-form batting line-up and picking up a fifer. In the 2015 quarter-final against Australia, Pakistan were defending a modest total. He brought Pakistan back in the contest by giving an absolute nightmare to Shane Watson. He got the Adelaide crowd on their feet. Unfortunately for Pakistan, none of those performances could win his team those games. Clearly, Pakistan wants someone who could reverse the old ball and bowl pin-point yorkers which will be handy on flat English pitches. Moreover, it’s his pace that can make him effective. However, the concern is his lack of international exposure in recent times. Riaz played his last ODI 2 years ago in the Champions Trophy 2017. In fact, his relationship with coach Mickey Arthur does not give good news to the Pakistani fans.

The PSL 2019 performance of Riaz may be one shining light amidst all the uncertainties. He was the third-highest wicket-taker, picking up 17 wickets at an economy of under 7. Pakistan have gone for him out of the blue hoping his experience can come good. The cheer of the Adelaide crowd of 2015 may be fresh in the minds of the selectors. However, that was a long way back, Backing someone on the basis of past laurels can backfire. Pakistan will be hoping that it is not the case.

The selection of Amir was somewhat on the cards given the lack of penetration in the Pakistan new ball attack. The 5-0 and  4-0 drubbing against Australia and England have left Pakistan supporters astounded. What’s interesting is that their batting is not letting them down. They racked up scores of 350 consistently in England. However, they have been taken to the cleaners by a power-packed English line-up. Two of their new-ball bowlers in that series are still teenagers- Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain. They have the pace and skill but their inexperience reflected in their performance. Mohammed Amir promises to bring experience in this squad.

The worrying signs for Pakistan are evident from the fact that Amir has picked up just 4 ODI wickets since 2018. Although his economy has been under 5, lack of wickets with the new ball has pushed Pakistan on the back-foot. Not only has his pace dropped, but his sharp in-swingers to the right-handers have also disappeared. He devastated the Indian top order in the Asia Cup 2016 and the 2017 Champion Trophy final single-handedly. He swung the ball both ways leaving the Indian batsmen clueless. However, it will not be wrong to reiterate the fact that it is past. He is a shadow of what he was 2 years ago.

It is important to look at Pakistan’s defeat in their solitary warm-up game against Afghanistan. Wahab Riaz returned to his old-self by picking up 4 wickets and giving Pakistan some chance though the game was already gone. Amir, however, failed to pick up a single wicket and bowled just 6 overs.

The conditions in England for bilateral ODI series in the last few years have been a graveyard for bowlers. However, this tournament is managed by the ICC and not by the ECB. Hence, ICC will ensure that there is some help for the bowlers. In fact, we did see a lot of green pitches in the warm-up games promising some help for the bowlers early in the piece.

Amir and Riaz have been picked at the expense of Faheem Ashraf and Junaid Khan. Junaid was disappointed as he took to social media to roast the selectors indirectly. This is a big decision. If this decision backfires then stern questions will be asked from the selection committee. After all, you have picked out-of-form and unprepared players and left out the players who were picked in the original squad and that too, just on the eve of the World Cup. This could be a make or break decision for Pakistan.

No one is giving Pakistan a chance. They have seen defeats and nothing else in the last few months and the confidence in the dressing room must be rock-bottom. Good individual performances count for nothing if the side loses. Therefore, Pakistan have got some serious work to do.

When you don’t expect them to do well, that’s where they bring their unpredictability to the fore. However, they don’t have a true leader like Imran Khan. Nor do they have the game-changers in Wasim and Waqar. It remains to be seen if Sarfaraz Ahmad can lift his side the way he did in the 2017 Champions Trophy. continue

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