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Pakistan has announced its squad for the ODI and T20 series against Australia and it has disappointed a lot of cricket fans. Though there are many questionable selections, the most surprising one is Younus Khan being dropped from the ODI team.
While announcing the decision, chief selector Moin Khan said,
“Our experiment with Younus in the ODI series in Sri Lanka backfired. Now all have unanimously decided to look ahead to our future with youngsters. His services for Pakistan are commendable but now we have to take a step forward and he is also out of contention for the 2015 World Cup.”
It is true that Younus didn’t perform well in the only ODI match he played against Sri Lanka and was out on just three runs. However, it should also be mentioned here that the only ODI match Pakistan did win in this series was the one in which Younus played. He had to leave the tour because of the illness of his nephew and Pakistan lost the other two ODI matches. One can’t help but imagine how the decision of including him in the team backfired when the only match he played in was the only one Pakistan won.
Our selectors want to take “a step forward” when the World Cup is just four months away and the Pakistani team is just a couple of series away from the mega event. How is this supposed to be a prudent decision? If they really were so focused on the future, then why didn’t they start training younger players beforehand?
Most of the other teams have their squads decided and finalised by now and, with almost no time left in the World Cup, they are banking on experience.
Sri Lanka is the perfect example of this; Mahela Jayawardene was not in form for almost about three months but he was given an extended chance to get back into the game. Why? Because he is one of the most experienced players in the Sri Lankan team. On the other hand, Younus Khan came back to the team after a gap of almost two years and was dropped after just one match – if you don’t call this injustice then I don’t know what is.
Umar Amin has been included in the team in place of Younus. Moin Khan believes that his fitness and current form are good enough for the team to use him. Just for the record, this “fitness” that Moin talks about was gauged in the current domestic competitions, which were all T20 tournaments by the way, and where Amin played only six matches scoring 139 runs.
How can Moin decide his fitness level in just six matches? Amin is an energetic player, no doubt about that. However, PCB selectors need to stop playing with words and making a fool out of the public. Cricket fans know a good player when they see one, and Younus is a very good player.
If the basic criterion for the team selection was fitness, then it should not be forgotten that during the recently concluded training sessions, Younus was seen amongst the fittest players in the team.
If current form was the criterion for selection, then one should keep in mind that in the last five series that Younus has played, he has scored four centuries (including a century against South Africa on their home ground). Also, just a month ago, he played a marathon inning of 177 runs against Sri Lanka.
I think this is proof enough that he is very much in form.
Why, then, was he not selected?
Yes, it is needed to look forward and build a team for the future but teams are built keeping the World Cup in mind. You send your strongest and most experienced team in the tournament and then, after the team has shown its charm in the competition, you groom those players even further. You don’t send youngsters who are inexperienced to perform in perhaps the biggest cricketing tournament ever. The result will be catastrophic. Not only will they not be able to perform well, any future chances of them becoming part of the team will be snatched away from them under the pretence that they didn’t perform well at the World Cup.
Australia is not an easy place for batsmen; there is pace and bounce in their pitches that only experienced players can handle and Younus, being a strong backfoot player, would have been very beneficial for the team on such a pitch.
Some people may argue that Younis Khan hasn't performed well in the ODI matches over a long period of time and ask to look at the stats on how slow he has batted or what a low average he has or how less runs he has scored. Before being dropped against South Africa last year Younis Khan had scored 969 runs (4th highest by any Pakistani) at an average of 31.25 (5th highest by any Pakistani) and a strike rate of 80.25 (3rd best by any Pakistani) in the previous two years.
On a side note, it is really interesting to see how almost all senior players have been sidelined one by one by the management. Abdul Razzaq, who in his days was a match winner, was let go because he spoke against Muhammad Hafeez; Taufeeq Umar, who had performed so well for over a year, was never recalled after he got injured; Shahid Afridi is dropped on and off and usually comes back because of public (and sometimes political) pressures, and Younus was degraded to B category for two years before the management got him back in the A category after getting pressurised by the public.
It won’t be a surprise if Pakistan loses the series against Australia and selectors call Younus back in the team as a last resort. It is such a shame that a senior player like Younus, one whom we should be utilising for the benefit of Pakistan cricket, is being sidelined when we desperately need him for the 2015 ICC World Cup.