Mohammad Wasim picked Mohammad Nawaz for the Pakistan tour of Africa, dropping Imad Wasim entirely. Was that the right decision, though?
Ever since Muhammad Wasim announced Pakistan’s squad for the tours of South Africa and Zimbabwe on the 10th of March, 2021, there has been a lot of buzz around the Pakistani cricketing fraternity due to a few surprising omissions. The most notable of these shocked exclusions for me personally was Imad Wasim’s.
Since Shahid Afridi’s final and official retirement (we are assuming that he doesn’t make a comeback), Imad has filled the shoes of the lower-order spin-bowling all-rounder for the team. Initially, it was a tussle between Imad, Nawaz, and Shadab, but as time passed, Imad became the most important spin-bowling all-rounder for the limited-overs team from this trio.
While possessing the ability to bowl economically in the powerplay with the new-ball, Imad also hones the potential to take the game away from the opposition with the bat in hand and has proved it on numerous occasions, the first of which was a memorable partnership with Anwar Ali against Sri Lanka in 2015. Imad’s consistency in this format is shown by the latest ODI rankings released by the ICC, where he is ranked as the 5th best all-rounder globally and is the only Pakistani to feature in the top 10.
Along with this, Imad has 47 scalps in 49 T20Is and is the most economical Pakistani T20I bowler amongst those who have 15 or more T20I wickets. However, his low average of 13.7 in the shortest format goes against him. Still, considering the finishing role and his strike rate of 146, it clearly shows that Imad has been doing what is required of him. That is to score around 20 runs at the end of the innings at a high strike rate. Nawaz happens to have very similar stats as Imad in T20Is. However, Imad has the edge as he has much more experience than Nawaz.
When we compare the PSL performances of these two, Imad edges Nawaz out with the bat in hand, mainly because of a higher strike rate. Nawaz tends to struggle against spin, and since the majority of the PSL matches have been played on UAE pitches, Nawaz hasn’t been phenomenal with the bat. However, when given the ball in hand, Nawaz surpasses Imad with an average of 27 compared to Imad’s 34.5. The two, however, have very similar economy rates of 6.97 and 7.14. Ironically, Nawaz’s PSL success with the ball is also down to UAE, though; when it comes to playing in Pakistan, the two southpaws have very similar bowling outputs.
Whether it is deciding between Krunal Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja or Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz, you can only pick one because playing these two pairs together in the same team is likely to affect the balance. For this reason, Mohammad Wasim opted for Nawaz and ended up dropping Imad. He cited that Imad is a bowler with limited potential, as he tends to only bowl well in the powerplays while Nawaz can bowl anywhere in the innings. Secondly, Mohammad Wasim seemed impressed with Nawaz’s ability to provide a lot of revolutions on the ball, something that Imad isn’t a master at. Perhaps keeping India’s turning wickets in mind for the T20 World Cup, Wasim has opted for the former.
The decision may turn out to be a very good one. However, in my opinion, Imad shouldn’t have been dropped like this. He is an experienced campaigner who at one point was also rumored to take over the captaincy duties for Pakistan’s limited-over sides. Over the years, Imad has significantly improved his power hitting and has been consistent at it. If Nawaz had to be tried and tested, it should have been with Imad in the squad. Whoever performed well on the tour could have become a permanent part of the World Cup pool. It was that simple, Wasim!