Inzamam days away from make-or-break Test selection

Saturday, June 2, 2007

KARACHI: Pakistani selectors are likely to make a call in the next few days that would make or break former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq’s fading Test career.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has asked the national selectors to submit a list of 30 players out of which around 20 would be awarded new central contracts next month.

Under normal circumstances, it would have not have been a particularly tough job for chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed alias Sallu and his two colleagues — Shafqat Rana and Saleem Jaffar. But for the selectors, the ticklish issue is that of Inzamam.

It is now, more or less, their call whether Inzamam would be allowed to continue his Test career after having stepped down as Pakistan captain following the national team’s humiliating first round exit from the World Cup in March.

Inzamam, one of Pakistan’s most successful batsmen, also decided to retire from one-day cricket after the World Cup debacle but made it clear that he intends to continue playing Test cricket.

If the selectors do not include the Multan-born maestro in the 30-man list, then it would be game over for Inzamam. And if they do, then the PCB, which had announced its plans to rebuild the Pakistan team, would distance itself from the issue saying that it were the selectors who thought that Inzamam was still good enough to be awarded a central contract.

The PCB is to award ‘performnace-based’ central contracts to the country’s top 20 players next month.

Shafqat Naghmi, the Board’s Chief Operating Officer, has said that the selectors have been asked to submit the names of at least 30 players as soon as possible. He has also said that if the selectors include Inzamam in the list, then he would be retained on the list of the contracted players.

A selector, when contacted, confirmed that the committee has been asked to submit the list. However, he said that the selection committee would take its time before recommending players for central contracts.I

nzamam, 37, has fallen out of favour with top PCB officials since the World Cup debacle. He was later singled out as the chief villain behind Pakistan’s disastrous World Cup campaign by a probe committee appointed by the PCB.

Sallu was one of the members of that probe committee which labelled Inzamam as a dictator in its report.

Insiders say that top PCB officials and the national selectors are unwilling to select Inzamam in Pakistan’s Test squad but neither of them is ready to bell the cat.

One of main reason for this approach is the fact that Inzamam is regarded among the most accomplished of Pakistani cricketers.

He is one of the highest run-getters in ODI cricket having scored 11739 runs from 378 appearances. Inzamam is also the second highest scorer in Test cricket for Pakistan with 8813 runs from 119 Tests. In fact he just needs 20 more runs to overtake former Pakistan captain Javed Miandad as the all-time top scorer for Pakistan in Test cricket.

Former Pakistan captain Rameez Raja has been rooting for Inzamam, saying that the national team needs him as a top class middle order batsman.

There is also an element of sympathy and some former Test cricketers have urged the PCB to allow Inzamam a swansong by fielding him in the home series against South Africa in September-October this year so that he can break Miandad’s record of most Test runs for Pakistan.

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