The Pakistan cricket tour selectors face a huge dilemma over picking up the playing XI in the run up to their high octane clash against arch-rivals India in their World Cup opener, to be played in Adelaide on Sunday.
Spurred by their back-to-back wins in warm up matches against Bangladesh and England, Pakistan are all set to take on India, but their biggest worry is finalising the playing eleven.
“Yes, the playing eleven has become a dilemma because after two weeks in New Zealand and Australia it is clear we have to play four specialist bowlers with Shahid Afridi as the fifth bowler,” an official in the team told PTI today from Adelaide.
“The problem is if we play four specialist bowlers then we have to play Umar Akmal as a wicketkeeper and that is a risky proposition given the importance of the match.
“If we stick with Sarfaraz Ahmed as keeper, it means we can only play five specialist batsmen and no one in the tour selection committee is comfortable with that,” he added.
The official said the option of using a make-shift opener with Ahmed Shehzad had been discussed but head coach Waqar Younis was firm in his belief that a gamble should be taken with Nasir Jamshed flown in to replace the injured Muhammad Hafeez.
“We have two options…play Sarfaraz and ask him to open with Shehzad and follow up the batting order with Younis (Khan), Haris Sohail, Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal, besides Afridi and the four specialist bowlers,” he revealed.
The official admitted the selection had become a dicey decision since majority of the tour selection committee also didn’t want to drop Sohail Maqsood from the batting line up.
“He is an impact player but Umar Akmal can keep and Haris can be used as the sixth bowler, so you can understand the difficulties we are facing in finalising the playing eleven,” he explained.
The official, however, stated that the team management was convinced they would get a flat batting track for the match at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
“Generally the preference is to chase against India because we also want to take advantage of any freshness in the pitch,” he said.
He said leg-spinner Yasir Shah had impressed the tour selectors enough to use him as the fourth bowler against India.
“He is a fearless type of bowler and he is bowling well and it would be interesting to see how the Indians tackle him and Afridi.”
While the selection of fast bowler Sohail Khan and Muhammad Irfan appears certain, the tour selectors are also mulling over whether to use Rahat Ali as an “x” factor against India or go with Wahab Riaz.
“Rahat has not played against them so far, so could be an interesting gamble against the strong Indian batting line-up.”
Pakistan’s probable XI: Misbah-ul-Haq, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed/Sohaib Maqsood, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Shah, Sohail Khan, Muhammad Irfan, Rahat Ali/Wahab Riaz.