In exclusive remarks to PakPassion.net Chief Selector Iqbal Qasim gave his thoughts on the ongoing Presidents Trophy, next month's Faysal Bank T20 and the tours of India and South Africa. Read this exclusive interview with the chief selector of the Pakistan national cricket team and get some great insight to thought process behind selection and many other things.
The Pakistan cricket team's next two series in India and then South Africa could be pivotal for the careers of several of the current squad. Some below par performances of late and some ageing legs have meant that fans and media have called for several of the familiar faces to be dropped and an overhaul of the one day and T20I squads.
In addition to the players themselves being under pressure to perform in the upcoming series, the selectors are also under severe pressure to ensure they pick the right personnel for what will undoubtedly be two very tough series for Pakistan.
Speaking to PakPassion.net Chief Selector Iqbal Qasim gave his thoughts on the ongoing Presidents Trophy, next month's Faysal Bank T20 and the tours of India and South Africa.
PakPassion.net: What are your thoughts on the standard of cricket during the President’s Trophy this season?
Iqbal Qasim: My selection committee and I have been watching a lot of the action in the tournament around the whole of Pakistan. Whenever we could attend a match, we have done so and overall we have been impressed with the standard of cricket.
PakPassion.net: Any concerns with what you have seen in the President's Trophy?
Iqbal Qasim: The lack of fast bowling talent is a real concern at the moment. We seem to lack those inspirational fast bowlers of yesteryear like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. We are really struggling to find fast bowling talent across the country at the moment and that should be a worry for everyone involved in Pakistan cricket.
There are a few youngsters coming up but I'm not sure they are quite ready for the international stage as yet. We'll have to see if these youngsters eventually reach the standards required to succeed in international cricket.
PakPassion.net: Why do you think Pakistan is failing to produce the fast bowling talent it is renowned for?
Iqbal Qasim: In the past, great Pakistani fast bowlers have come through the ranks quite literally by word of mouth. A local coach would spot a young fast bowler who he thought had the pace and talent to succeed, he would alert one of the domestic coaches and the domestic coach would invite that bowler to a training camp or practice session and that is how the youngsters career would start. He would then be picked by a first class team and his talents would then be showcased in first class cricket and before you knew it he would be wearing the cap of Pakistan.
However these days we are not hearing anything of the sort. The local coaches are silent, there are no names being mentioned or talked about on the domestic circuit. There's no exciting news coming though from any regions about any fast bowler who they have on their books. It's a really worrying trend.
The reason I feel for this is a focus on T20 cricket and 50 over cricket. Perhaps youngsters are not putting their efforts into becoming fast bowlers and instead going for the easier option of bowling medium pace and concentrating on line and length.
Let's hope that sooner rather than later we find a young fast bowling talent as we really do need some to come through.
PakPassion.net: Any youngsters that have impressed you in the President’s Trophy this season?
Iqbal Qasim: There have been a few that have shown some promise. In particular Haris Sohail has really impressed everyone. He's been performing well on a consistent basis this season and we are very optimistic that Haris will perform well in international cricket when his chance arrives.
In addition Ali Waqas has performed well and we have been impressed by him. As far as bowlers are concerned left arm spinner Raza Hasan has been bowling well.
Amongst the quick bowlers Anwar Ali has improved a great deal and has done well with the bat and the ball. Wahab Riaz has shown some glimpses of his best form which is heartening and in addition Mohammad Irfan of KRL has bowled with consistency.
The aforementioned are all names that are familiar to the selectors and cricketers that we have watched closely this season.
PakPassion.net: The tour of India is less than a month away. It's a high profile tour and good performances are expected by fans of both teams. Do you see the tour of India as a last chance for some of the current squad?
Iqbal Qasim: It's difficult to say whether it's the last chance for some of our squad. It all depends on how they perform. Expectations will be high and the fans and media will want the Pakistani team to perform well particularly the senior players in the team. We will be banking on our senior players to deliver and perform and if they don't in India, then naturally the media and fans start speculating about the futures of those senior players.
PakPassion.net: Umar Akmal's not been selected for Test cricket of late. Do you see that policy continuing in the short term?
Iqbal Qasim: Umar is a young and exciting cricketer. He's a very fine batsman. He just needs to learn the art of patience. Thirties and forties are not going to hurt the opposition, particularly when you throw your wicket away. Umar needs to have a think about his batting and make some changes or he will not achieve what he is capable of achieving.
PakPassion.net: Junaid Khan was a surprising omission from the World T20 squad in Sri Lanka. He's come back to domestic cricket and bowled with aggression and pace. Do you think he's done enough to warrant selection in all formats now?
Iqbal Qasim: Yes he's got a much better chance now of selection for the tour of India. I think he's done enough to earn a call up for the T20 and One Day side.
PakPassion.net: The selectors have chopped and changed the wicketkeepers in the shorter formats of late. There seems to be an issue regarding the wicketkeepers and their lack of runs. How do you aim to address this issue?
Iqbal Qasim: It's a tough situation as some of the wicketkeepers we have tried have not delivered with the bat. The advantage that Kamran Akmal has over the other wicketkeepers under consideration is his batting. He is a batsman who can turn a match in the space of a few overs.
In the modern game all captains and coaches want consistent scores from their wicketkeepers and our team is no different. Kamran's not had a great season in the President's Trophy and we'll be watching him closely regarding his form in the Faysal Bank T20. Pakistan needs an in form Kamran Akmal and we hope that he has a good tournament.
PakPassion.net: In the past we've seen the likes of Rameez Raja junior and Awais Zia receive international call ups after impressing in the domestic T20 tournaments. Are you hopeful that another player may be unearthed as a result of the upcoming tournament in Lahore?
Iqbal Qasim: We are always hopeful and this is the aim of holding such tournaments. It depends however on the performances and whether we feel that particular player has the required skills for international cricket.
PakPassion.net: The tour of India, a time to experiement with selection or to play safe?
Iqbal Qasim: Experience is vital on a tour of India. You need to be able to rely upon your experienced players so I would prefer to play it safe in terms of selection. I don't think it would be wise to experiment too much with our selection for the tour of India.
PakPassion.net: Looking ahead to the tour of South Africa in the early part of 2013 which promises to be an extremely tough tour against a very good team. Again will you be adopting a play it safe policy, or are we likely to see some new faces on that tour?
Iqbal Qasim: Both the India and the South African tours are very important. It's on tours such as these where you can gauge how far you have come as a team and what areas you need to work at and improve upon.
In India, conditions will be similar to Pakistan, but of course the conditions that our cricketers will encounter in South Africa will be totally different, for example the bouncy pitches and how to handle them is something that our cricketers and the coaching staff will look at. I think I'd like to see a couple of new faces on the tour of South Africa so they can learn from senior colleagues whilst out there.
PakPassion.net: Former Pakistan batsman Mohammad Yousuf is ready to play domestic cricket again which I'm sure you will have noted. Too late in the day for Yousuf to launch an international comeback or has he still got a chance of playing for Pakistan again?
Iqbal Qasim: We'll have to see what his fitness levels are like and how he performs in the Faysal Bank T20. The ball is in Yousuf's court, he has a chance to impress the selectors, prove that he can still score runs and do well in all departments of his cricket then he has every chance to play for Pakistan again. We are keeping an open mind regarding Yousuf.
PakPassion.net: We've seen Ricky Ponting announce his retirement from international cricket after an illustrious career. Do you think some of the current crop of Pakistani cricketers should also call it a day?
Iqbal Qasim: That's not my call. If they are still playing domestic cricket and performing well then they will continue to be eligible for selection. For me, age is not an issue. If the player is fit and in form then they deserve a place in the team. I've always felt that retirement should be down to the individual, it shouldn't be "forced" upon anyone. You know yourself when it's time to call it a day and you shouldn't need others to show you the door.
PakPassion.net: Azhar Mahmood was listed to play for Islamabad in the Faysal Bank T20 but he's now playing in the Australian Big Bash League. Are you disappointed that he's not available to you for selection for Pakistan?
Iqbal Qasim: I heard that he wanted to play for Pakistan and we offered him to come and play in the Faysal Bank T20 tournament but then my selectors and I were informed by the Board that he had opted to play in Australia instead, so therefore he's not available for international selection.
PakPassion.net: Thanks as always for your time.
Iqbal Qasim: My pleasure.