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Selectors face Kamran conundrum amid opposition

KARACHI: The national selection committee braces for strong resistance from the Pakistan management now touring Australia after it emerged on Wednesday that Kamran Akmal is all but unacceptable for next month’s series of One-day Internationals.

The committee, headed by former national team skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq with members Tauseef Ahmed, Wajahatullah Wasti and Wasim Haider, is slated to name the 15-man squad on Saturday for the five matches — at Brisbane (Jan 13), Melbourne (Jan 15), Perth (Jan 19), Sydney (Jan 22) and Adelaide (Jan 26) — here on the day the semi-finals of the ongoing National One-day Cup for Departments are being played.

With the top Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials, including the governing board members, visiting Karachi for Thursday’s inauguration of the High Performance Centre — which has been upgraded from the previously known regional academy — in the vicinity of the National Stadium and the board of governors’ meeting on Friday, it is almost certain that the selectors will unveil the squad at a media conference the next day (Saturday).

Selector Wasim Haider, who hails from Faisalabad, is already in the city for the past one week after being assigned to watch the Karachi leg matches of the one-day cup. He had been frequently shuttling between three venues — National Stadium, UBL Sports Complex and SBP Sports Complex — since Sunday.

According to sources, Wajahatullah Wasti, the Peshawar-based national selector, is due to arrive in Karachi by Thursday while Tauseef Ahmed, who lives in the city, has taken leave since he is currently preoccupied with the marriage of his only daughter.kamran-akmal

Inzamam, who is is also likely to arrive by Friday to consult with his committee members, faces a tricky situation before making the final call.

The sources, requesting anonymity, told Dawn that national team’s ODI skipper Azhar Ali and head coach Mickey Arthur are reluctantly unhappy over the induction of Kamran in the squad as a batsman. But the selectors, though, have more or less made up their mind after monitoring the outstanding batting form shown by Kamran during the just-ended Quaid-i-Azam Trophy National Cricket Championship.

Kamran, who will celebrate his 35th birthday the day Pakistan meet Australia in the series opener at the Gabba in Brisbane, amassed 1,035 runs — the solitary player to cross the four-figure mark in the first-class championship — in only nine matches for first-time champions Wapda in his first season for them after switching over from National Bank of Pakistan.

In the one-day cup Kamran has scored 254 runs in six matches with a century ahead of Wapda’s last preliminary-round fixture against KRL in Hyderabad on Thursday.

In Tuesday’s match at the SBP Sports Complex, Kamran even shed his wicket-keeping gloves to take position as a fielder during his team’s defeat against PIA, while letting Bismillah Khan keeping wickets.

The sources informed both Azhar and Arthur are comfortable in retaining Mohammad Rizwan as the backup wicket-keeper to vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed for the upcoming matches Down Under, hence their opposition of recalling Kamran.

Kamran, who hasn’t played any international since the 2014 World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, last appeared in a One-day International during the ICC Champions Trophy hosted by England in 2013. In 154 one-dayers, he has scored 3168 runs at 26.18 with five centuries.

Kamran’s track record against Australia is quite modest. He scored 356 runs in 18 matches at an average of 22.25 with one hundred — an unbeaten 116 at Abu Dhabi in May 2009 — while his performance in Australia is marginally average (251 in 11 matches with a highest of 124 against West Indies at the Gabba in January 2005).

The most glaring stat that the selectors would be taking note of is Kamran’s horrendous against Australia on Australian soil — mere 91 runs from eight matches between 2005 and 2010 at a dismal average of 11.37 with a best score of just 34 at Brisbane.

The selectors have indicated that they want to follow the policy of continuity while picking up the squad. Kamran’s younger sibling Umar Akmal, who didn’t get a game during the three-match series against the West Indies in Sept/Oct, is thus set to keep his spot along with spinning all-rounder Imad Wasim, young paceman Hasan Ali and experienced stalwart Shoaib Malik.

Selectors are also taking close look at Junaid Khan, the left-arm paceman who is bidding to make a comeback to the national side after a successful stint in the recent Bangladesh Premier League, although Azhar and Arthur are backing for the inclusion of giant left-armer Mohammad Irfan who has been making sporadic appearances in the current domestic season.

It may be mentioned here that Arthur expressed deep anguish at Irfan’s reluctance to take the field during the fourth One-day International against England at Headingley last September when the big fellow limped off the field after a fiery opening five-over burst because of cramps.

Irfan, who has not played for Pakistan since, made a futile attempt to bowl late in the innings but was in no condition to do so before hobbling off. But he could make a somewhat surprise return to the folds because his extraordinary height could him a handful proposition for the Australian batsmen.

The sources further indicated Mohammad Hafeez faces an uncertain future since the selectors won’t risk him just a few weeks after the veteran all-rounder was cleared to bowl again by the ICC.


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