Akmal may Open; Umar Gul and Rafat-Ullah called to the Camp
Have been out of the loop for a few days, I am traveling for work all this, I am actually in NYC this whole week.
Prem said in one of his posts, "No stories out of the training camp, no interviews with any of the players; no punditry; no nothing. Is it indicative of a lack of real interest? Or of lack of real money in Pak cricket (you need to be in a newsroom to understand just how the need to keep sponsors happy with frequently uploaded sites forces you to come up with stories by the hour, even when there are none)?Anyone from Pakistan with any insight into this?".
Prem you are right the interest is lacking a little bit, or not where we would like it to be. I am pretty sure there is no shortage of interest amongst people, although I do feel that there are two things that are sort of on the front burner in Pakistan right now:
1. Kalabagh Dam and the water issue
2. The political situation in N.W.F.P
Also, the final itenery coming out so late did not help to much either. I feel interviews / articles / analyses will start kicking in once the Pakistani team starts it's training camp. For those of you who don't know, the "conditioning camp" starts from Jan 5th until Jan 10th. Bobby is also returning from his deserving break on the 5th of January. Meanwhile, the 15 member squad has been announced. Pretty much the same team which played against England (which I was expecting), a few notable inclusions:
1. Umar Gul called back (returning from his back injury) after an excellent performance inQuaid-e- Azam trophy. He took 10 wickets for PIA in a 4 day game, just a reminder that Wasim Akram is coaching the PIA bowlers these days. Gul couldn't have asked for any better preparation than this. Wasim says he has imense potential and talent.
2. Rafat-ullah has been called as an opener, he is an ok opener. This years avg of 38 and a career avg. of 29 approximately. I am a little surprised at his inclusion. Although, both Inzi and Younis Khan spoke very highly of him after he made 55 in a side game against England at Bagh-e Jinnah (Lahore Gymkhana - Ground on a pitch where the ball was seaming a lot and none of the English batsman could get a decent score), but still I wasn't expecting him to be called in so soon. I doubt that he will make it to th eplaying 11 though.
3. Razzaq has been included in the camp. According to PCB he is recovering well and should be in good shape before the first test. I seriously doubt that, but I hope that he gets fit before the first test.
The rest of the players were pretty much the same: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Kamran Akmal, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria, Arshad Khan, Mohammad Asif, Asim Kamal and Yasir Hameed.
One interesting article in this daily "The News" from Pakistan talks about some gossip doing circles that Kamran Akmal may be asked to open the innings in tests as well. It might be a good move as it will give Pakistan batting more depth and will also allow them to either play Razzaq or Shahid Afridi as an all rounder."The feeling is that if Akmal opens with Butt then Pakistan has the option of playing three specialist batsmen — Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf — followed at number six and seven by either all-rounders Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq or specialist batsman Asim Kamal and Shahid Afridi to give more depth to the bowling and have a fifth bowler available," the article said.
This option will be discussed in detail when coach Bob Woolmer returns from his vacation and the conditioning camp begins in Lahore. I guess we would have to wait and see, although Bobby always has something different up his sleeve and might totally shelve this plan.
The article also says, "the fact that five specialist pacers and one all-rounder in Razzaq has been invited for the camp also means that captain Inzamam-ul-Haq is dead serious about his intentions to have pitches with more carry and bounce for the Tests to allow Pakistan to take advantage of its in-form pace attack".
Only time will tell if the attack is "in-form", I sincerely hope that this is true. No doubt the bowling attack was outstanding against England, Shoaib Akhtar was a "re-defined" bowler, Kaneria was attacking all the time and the support bowlers stuck to a plan. But will they be able to do this consistently? Being a fan, I can only hope that this is true!!