Mohammad Amir may have spent five years in the wilderness, but Pakistan chief selector Haroon Rasheed has said he is ‘still better’ than most of the competition.
Amir became eligible for national selection within four months of completing an ICC ban for spot-fixing. Rasheed told ESPNcricinfo he was assessed solely on his cricketing skill.
“As a selector what we see is the overall ability, skills, form, fitness and performance so this is all we have taken into account before considering him for the New Zealand tour. He is still better than most of those who played in last five years. We have seen him performing at domestic level and he has stood out. But now we want to assess him at the international level and see how well he can deliver.”
Fourteen fast bowlers (including bowling all-rounders) have made debuts across formats for Pakistan since Amir’s five-year suspension in 2010. In that time, only Wahab Riaz has made a case for a permanent place in the XI across formats. Fellow left-arm seamer Junaid Khan had a promising start to his career, but his threat has diminished greatly and has not been part of a Pakistan team since June. Umar Gul has had a tough time with injuries; he is still pushing for a comeback. Rahat Ali has been a workhorse at times, but is not an automatic selection. Imran Khan and Mohammad Irfan have fitness concerns.
Amir, 23, resumed his career in March playing grade two cricket in Pakistan, after the ICC allowed an early return to cricket. He moved onto grade one and caught further attention in the Bangladesh Premier League where he picked up 14 wickets in nine matches at an average of 12.64.
“We are not undermining other players and forcing him [back] but there is always a difference between normal and extraordinary players,” Rasheed said of Amir. “We are not axing anyone to bring him in. They are all part of the circuit and part and parcel of our planning.
“But about Amir, it’s not just his bowling but his all-round ability. He is good fielder and can bat with surety. Had he kept on playing in last five years he could have been developed into an established allrounder. We have good bowlers but they are not known for their batting. I don’t want to point to anyone, but we need our players to cover all the three dimensions of the game.”
Amir has a top score of 73 against New Zealand in ODIs, and has a couple of fifties in first-class cricket as well.
“Pakistan hasn’t been really a bad ODI team,” Rasheed said, “What has been hampering them is the fielding and fitness. Skill was never really a problem. So we want to pick a boy who has everything and as a selector we have seen something in him.”
Pakistan’s one-day team is in transition, and the inconsistency in selection has not helped their cause. They have had four selection committees in three years. And following the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi after the World Cup 2015, there was a widespread revamp with Azhar Ali appointed as ODI captain.
“One thing is certain, we didn’t have readymade back-up sitting behind. We know we have tons of players performing in the domestic circuit, scoring heavily and taking wickets and after the World Cup, we wanted to give all of them a chance and test their potential.
“Now the experimentation is over and we came to understand that most of them lacked the temperament, confidence and the fitness. We have told them [that] and sent them back to domestic cricket to work on their limitations. At the same time we have stuck with some of them and given them a longer run in the national team.”
Rasheed also stressed on the need to give players a longer stint in the team, to help them gain experience and settle into the team set-up.
“We definitely have to digest failure and we are throwing our full confidence behind the players we have selected after extensive experimentation for almost an entire year. Realistically, we may be behind the rest of the cricketing world in ODIs but we have to stick with the boys and let them gain experience.”
The team for Pakistan’s limited-overs tour of New Zealand will likely be announced by Saturday, since they fly out on January 10.