For even, a relatively unsettled side like Pakistan, selection, for the most part, is straight forward. In the fifteen man squad, twelve to thirteen positions are filled by default. And of course, Pakistani selectors don’t select Fawad Alam, which is another given. The decision to make is really about a maximum of two to three spots.
Similarly, on the match day, if the conditions are generic, (as they usually are now, in most parts of the world), 9 to 10 players pick themselves. The call to make is regarding one or two players. It requires tweaks based on opposition, conditions and current form of the players. This is why selectors, captains, and coaches are given the big bucks. To get these calls right. Their reputation is built and destroyed by these decisions or indecisions.
Take Imran Khan (the P.M) for example. His decision to throw weight behind talented young players is one of the primary reasons of the myth that has been created about his leadership. Given that the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younus, Inzamam ul Haq and others were given the long rope, strange calls like dropping Javed Miandad before the 1992 World Cup, illogical persistence with Mansoor Akhtar, and disdain for Qasim Omer have been largely ignored.
Imran Khan was able to have his way due to his personal clout (Burki Clan) and weight of performance on the cricket field. The left-field choices he made, were largely successful. Hence, the end justified the means.
Now, unlike Imran Khan, Misbah ul Haq has unprecedented power based on his official designation. He has used that power to entirely disrupt the system. No one can really accuse him of kicking the can down the road. Rather he has disturbed the hornet’s nest.
With the selection, the safe option is to go to with the conventional choices. Alternatively, you could throw your weight behind an exciting youngster or a domestic performer. And there is a third way. Going with someone who you believe in even though there is no evidence to show that he is good enough to be in the squad.
Misbah has so far, mostly opted for the 2nd and 3rd type of selections. By bringing back Umer Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad to a well-oiled T20 side, he was clearly taking a punt. It backfired terribly and Sarfaraz was thrown under the bus for it.
Again, the same thing has happened with Imran Khan. Like there was no apparent need to change a successful T20 side, there is no cricketing justification of dropping Pakistan’s premier test bowler Mohammad Abbas for Mohammad Imran. There is no evidence or reports that Abbas is unfit. What transpired today, exposed the fallacy about Imran Khan’s pace, accuracy and fitness. Mohammad Irfan is perhaps somewhere in the middle, where he was a surprise selection but one could see the reasoning behind it. His performance was also average at best. Another such call was the inclusion of Usman Qadir, who eventually didn’t even get a game.
His other choices i.e. selecting Naseem Shah & Shaheen Afridi makes cricketing sense and are long term investments. Mohammad Rizwan has had a pretty torrid time barring one relatively insignificant test innings. His keeping today was untidy too. Similarly, Iftikhar Ahmed did well in the 1st T20 but things have gone downwards for him ever since. But both selections one could argue were based on domestic performances.
However, there is no way one can look at Imran Khan, Ahmed Shehzad and Umer Akmal and think their inclusions made sense. What is worse is Misbah discarded Shehzad and Akmal after two innings, and unless Imran Khan makes a miraculous comeback tomorrow, this in all likelihood will be the last time he plays for Pakistan. If they are good enough, they should be given a run in the side. If they aren’t, why give them the odd game?
Besides the results, it is the way these resources are being used that will put the former Pakistan captain under pressure. You can’t keep making absurd choices and blame others for it. He may well be the Kim Jong-un of Pakistan cricket right, but unlike the dictator, Misbah has little power over dissenters and detractors. If your recycled old personal favourites shall not deliver, it will be difficult for the PCB to continue this unparalleled backing.