June 7 - 13, 2010

Pakistan's selection of controversial Shoaib Akhtar and Shoaib Malik in Pakistan team for Asia Cup in Sri Lanka later this month speaks volume about desperation in Pakistan Cricket Board to pick a team that it wishes will end the drought of cricket title in the Island nation.

It also reminds one of an interesting story about how the law abiding New York police in act of desperation requested a Mafia don serving thirty year terms in local prison to help it keep an eye on the saboteurs in grim war years of 1942. The NYPD knew that they had to eat their ego and rules to take help from Mafia don Luciano who can easily deliver what they wanted.

The PCB did what the NYPD did when going for the selection. The Cricket body bent backwards to compromise on lofty principles and pick players who may once again prove fatal to team discipline.

It also reminds the story of Troy in Greek mythical history about how opposing forces managed to send wooden horses with soldiers packed in its belly inside the fort and how those soldiers in the secret cavity of the horses called Trojan horses caught the defenders napping in the night and brightly surrender of the fort.

But in Pakistan cricket team those Trojan Horses are in the form of human beings who in the past had done every thing possible in their power to damage Pakistan's image abroad and cause fall of Pakistan team at home and away tour.

Among the squad are four players who were hauled up for their alleged negative role during Australian tour by a committee set up by the PCB to look into the causes of poor performance and find those who contributed in that performance.

They are Shahid Afridi who has been named captain for the entire 100 days tour of the team. Shoaib Malik who is alleged to have negative infleunce on the team and for allegedly creating groupings and disunity in the team. Then there are Akmal brothers Kamran Akmal and Umar Akmal who indulged in acts of indiscipline on the tour. Doubts were also raised on Kamran Akmal's wicket keeping and some quarters alleged that he had intentionally missed catches and run out during crucial times in Sydney test which Pakistan was on the verge of victory.

Giving the captaincy reins to Shahid Afridi is a blunder. The all rounder has never led in a test matches and he called to captain Pakistan in six tests which the Pakistani will play back and back in a period thirty five days in England. He is being called as a unifier of the team but what Pakistan team needs is a captain who can lead the team by example.

Afridi's captaincy was thoroughly exposed in the shortest form of T20 cricket in the West Indies. He could not mange to draw a strategy for just twelve balls against Australia in the semi final of the ICC World T20 cup and the PCB is expecting him to lead the national team in the longest version of the test where fortunes swing more frequently.

Personally he is full of verve and energy and in the heat of moment lets go the better part of discretion which was evident in the Sydney ODI when he twice bit the ball in front of 28 TV cameras. He is an intemperate cricketer who relies more on emotions than reason. He may be popular with the fans but is not the material to lead in test matches. The PCB has only taken a chance by giving him the captaincy because they had no other person available to take over the responsibilities.

However the most shocking act of the selectors was inclusion of Shoaib Akhtar in the squad. It was a known fact that Shoaib Akhtar had allegedly least respect for team discipline. He is a loner who believed that he could win a match single handedly with his some times fiery speed. However the statistics show that Shoaib Akhtar had very little to contribute in matches in which he played and Pakistan won.

He is the man who was allegedly found taking banned drugs to enhance his performance, he is the man who hit his fellow pacer Muhammad Asif with an alleged intention to hurting him. He is the man who openly defied his contract on talking to media. He was fined a hefty sun of Rs7 million but he contested the fine and punishment. He remained out of Pakistan team for over two years because of his brash behavior not compatible with the laid down norms of good behaviour from a cricketer.

The second biggest minus points against the muscularly built Shoaib Akhtar is his fitness. Though, he looked fitter than most of his team mates but he has always been dogged by fitness problem. One of the major reasons that he was left out in the cold by selectors was his fitness.

Before selectors sat at Gaddafi stadium to make their first selection for Sri Lankan tour, Shoaib Akhtar had to undergo a fitness test which called for bowling at least twelve overs. The PCB made it sure that no media person or TV crew was around to watch the players. The trials as some one wrote was held in-camera.

He bowled them and declared himself fit however who had an opportunity to get a glimpse of the bowler felt that he still lacks the fitness required for a competition like Asia Cup where the players had to bowl under trying hot and humid conditions.

The selectors and the PCB head watched the players bowling but when it came to assessing his fitness, they relied on the medical report of the players.

Three players who missed selection are Muhammad Yousuf, Younus Khan and Rana Naveedul Hasan. These three were in the list of seven who were probed by the enquiry committee after Australian tour and handed down punishment. Rana Naveed and Younus Khan went in appeal against the decisions of the inquiry committee and Muhammad Yousuf decided to announce his retirement from international cricket than to appeal against the decision which he had called as unwarranted.

Similarly, PCB and its principles selection committee headed by Mohsin Hasan Khan compromised to bring on board pacer Shoaib Akhtar and Shoaib Malik in the squad of fifteen which will leave next week for Colombo to play in the four nation Asia Cup. Defending champions Sri Lanka, former champion India and Bangladesh are other teams in the competition which will be played on single league and top two teams at the end of the league will play for the title.

Pakistan would play weather permitting maximum four matches in the Cup competition provided they qualify for the final otherwise the total number of matches to their credit are just three league rounds.

After last Decembers dipterous tour of Australia where Pakistan lost all matches against the host and this March's performance in the West Indies where the title holders lost the grip over the ICC World T20 trophy and a number of controversies that erupted in the wake of Australian tour, PCB headed by Ijaz Butt was in desperate straits.

With Senators and national Assembly blatantly interfering in the affairs of an autonomous cricket body which do not rely on government dole except that the president appoints the head of the institution, breathing on its neck, the national cricket administrators want to do any thing that will give them some respite which can only come through winning the Asia Cup.

With this aim in mind PCB selectors proceeded by personal friendship and hints from other sources picked a fifteen member team for the Lankan tour.

Squad for Asia Cup is:

Imran Farhat, Salman Butt (Vice Captain), Shahzaib Hasan, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi (Captain), Umer Akmal , Kamran Akmal (WK), Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Akhter, Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Aamir, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman , Umer Amin, Asad Shafiq.

Reserve Players: Fawad Alam, Azhar Ali, Muhammad Irfan, Zulfiqar Baber.

Former test pacer Waqar Younis is the coach, Aaquib Javed his assistant on the tour.