By Asif Suhail
Selection of young left handed opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq in the national side for the five-match One Day International series against Sri Lanka, commencing from tomorrow (October 13) at Dubai International stadium, has been widely discussed and criticized in serious cricket circles.
There is a general consensus that it is a pre-mature selection and the youngster only got selected because of his paternal uncle who is the chief selector of the PCB.
Imam is the nephew of Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chief selector of PCB and has been added as the replacement for Azhar Ali. Announcing the ODI squad against Sri Lanka, Inzamam defended selection of his 21 years old nephew saying that the youngster has been selected on merit and the critics should focus his current domestic performance.
Undoubtedly, Imam has been among leading batsmen in the domestic circuit for some time. During his time at Pakistan Under 19 Cricket team Imam has been the top performer.
Inzamam insisted that if you see Imam’s performance was good in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
“He scored two hundred for the Under-23 team in the triangular tournament in Bangladesh. He scored a hundred in Sialkot. Even Mickey and Sarfraz gave (their) opinions. We all consult each other”, Inzamam argued.
Imam’s selection evoked criticism in the media and cricket circles in Pakistan as Inzamam preferred this 21-year-old nephew over Sami Aslam who scored two centuries in the 50-over Pakistan Cup and boasts of a better domestic record.
He has also scored eight centuries in List A games and his 2,522 runs in 43 games have come at a strike-rate of 87.29 and an average of 48.50. While Imam has scored 848 runs at 49.88 last season, with three hundreds including a double-century for Habib Bank Limited. He has played 13 List A games this year, averaging 31.84 with three half-centuries.
However, if we keep nepotism aside for a while, Imam’s performance was not that impressive for which his uncle demonstrated an indecent haste. Inzamam knew that it was the ripe time to provide his nephew a chance to represent Pakistan because after him it was impossible for the youngster to find a place in the national team.
Similarly, Lt-General (R) Tauqir Zia had availed the opportunity for his son Junaid Zia to make his ODI debut against Bangladesh at Multan in September, 2003 when he was the chairman of the PCB. This indicates a serious flaw in our national cricket system where influential lobbies including a section of media manage their favourite players in the domestic and national teams.
Our weak cricket system has failed to provide fair chance to talented youngsters at an appropriate time. Junaid was provided a pre-mature chance and he couldn’t last. Talented Imam has been also given an early chance and many fear that it would spoil his career, particularly when Inzamam will not be around.
Some men of character and discipline have set splendid examples in the past to avoid controversy in selection matters and Inzamam could have taken a lesson from them. Dr. Jahangir was the selector when his son Majid Khan’s name was brought up before the selection committee.
Dr. Jahangir Khan left the meeting room and did not participate in the proceedings thus setting an example for the coming generation of selectors to escape Conflict of Interest. Similarly Fazal Mahmood never approached the selectors to include Yawar Saeed, his brother-in-law in the national side when the Oval’s Hero was the captain of the national team and enjoyed a status which couldn’t be ignored. But who cares in this crumbled society where personal interest is supreme over national interest.
Inzamam has set another bad example which has seriously eroded his status in cricket circles who expected justice from him particularly he now belongs to a Tablighee Group which is rendering great service to the religion of Islam.
His whimsical decision would force his co-selectors, Tauseef Ahmed, Wajahatullah Wasti and Wasim Haider to follow their chief selector. Favouritism and nepotism have dominated our entire society in last three decades and in these tumultuous years we have prepared a breed of undeserved, uncultured and unethical individuals who have severely eroded our national character.
Cricket is not an exception! PCB is flooded with such undeserved, uncultured and unethical individuals. One should not keep any hope from Najam Sethi, the makeshift chairman of the PCB, to check Inzamam’s wrong as he is more interested in lobbying to save his seat in the Gaddafi Stadium.