33rd National Games 2019
- 30 Nov - 06 Dec, 2019
It’s never a win-win situation when compensation is signed offered anyone, let alone for cricketers where subjectivity is often interspersed with objectivity when gauging performance.
This time the contracts that PCB have put forward have caused some stir among the observers and analysts, if not among the cricketers. PCB’s code of conducts is very strict so voicing their concern is not common, though Mohammad Hafeez has done exactly that. More about that later.
PCB would normally lay out the criteria for promotion or demotion but this time they have simply let out a press release citing which cricketer is placed where. No questions answered; no ambiguities clarified. They are within their rights to do that but transparency helps.
So where are the lacunas? Well, starting from Category A, if seniority without consistent performance is to be the criteria then Mohammad Hafeez should have been there rather than relegated to Category B, something he has refused to accept and not signed the contract because of this relegation. True he hasn’t played as much as he should have and with Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf coming forward as allrounders, his value as an off spinner has diminished; especially when his batting has not the force for limited overs cricket.
Now with Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman entrenched as an opening pair and Babar Azam at No.3 following the Zimbabwe series there doesn’t seem a place for Hafeez. It’s made more difficult with Sarfraz playing himself at No.5 and Shoaib Malik at No.4 followed by the hard hitting Asif Ali. Hafeez is then challenged by the allrounders Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan and even otherwise it would look odd for him to come at No.7 not just for the sake of his self-respect but also because Faheem and Shadab can score at a faster rate.
In Tests, he has been replaced by Haris Sohail and with Sarfraz coming in at No.6 due to allrounders Shadab and Faheem, he can’t seem to break into the first eleven.
Hafeez’s gripe is also perhaps due to the fact that despite not being consistently penetrative Mohammad Amir retains his Category A spot. In fact, Amir ranks almost 30 in the ODI bowling ranking and below that in Tests. His strike rate is also the lowest among front line bowlers playing for Pakistan, despite taking the new ball. If he could swing it prodigiously and with pace in the Champions Trophy final why has he been unable to repeat such a performance all through the rest of the year, barring the odd showing? Yet he retains his Category A spot.
Likewise, Malik plays only in the shorter formats and Azhar only in Tests but both retain their top category. Azhar especially had a poor tour of England showing he is a friendly track batsman. Lastly Yasir and Babar Zaman are also in the top category even though Yasir has been out with injury and Shadab has replaced him in the shorter format while Babar Zaman was in danger of losing his Test place, so poor was his form till the England series. His placement in Category A is all the more suspicious as Asad Shafiq is in Category B, despite being his senior by several years and a far better Test batsman.
And if Faheem Ashraf could be given a double promotion from Category D to B then why wasn’t Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Imam Ul Haq given similar jump? They have been upgraded from C to B and D to C respectively.
Some players have been lucky to hold on to their positions, like Wahab Riaz who doesn’t seem to be in the frame of things. He was dropped for the England tour and Pakistan managed to win the first Test and draw the rubber. Mohammad Abbas has been a revelation with 42 wickets in 8 games at an average below 18.
And then there is Amir, Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf, not to mention Junaid Khan.
Ahmed Shahzad has been omitted for obvious reasons, having been banned for drug violation but it is perplexing to see Sami Aslam ousted despite a fifty in the 4 Test innings he was given. And to see Shan Masood there instead of him is even more confounding.
Of course contracts have little impact on selection and players like Sami Aslam can always make a comeback. But it does talk of the selection committee’s immediate thoughts on the coming series and next year’s world cup.
This year the Category E especially houses those players who are to be rewarded for their domestic performances. But again, Fawad Alam is not there either. Shame indeed considering The E category has been introduced to recognize the players’ performance at the domestic level.
Back to Hafeez. Since the news first came out that he had refused to sign the contract after being demoted to Category B and threatening retirement, Hafeez has tweeted that he is willing to play at any position and that it doesn’t matter what category he is placed in. Perhaps it’s after he was told that he could well be dropped from the Asia Cup squad that leaves for UAE in a couple of weeks.
Hafeez if selected would be the reserve opener but should someone from Malik or Babar Azam get unfit he could get a game that way as well. After all he can now bowl and has one of the best strike rates among Pakistani bowlers.
I think he has realised that PCB will take no pressure from his insinuations and will not change his category. He tweeted that he is ready to play even if placed in Category C or D. Still it came after the PCB Chairman communicated that there will be no change once the names for each category had been announced.
So it was a short lived battle by Hafeez and one that he lost quickly. His real battle now comes if he is picked for a future squad. And that will be to get into the first eleven in any format. •