x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pakistan are mining the fields to unearth cricket gems

Pakistan are trying to unearth stars as its national cricket team undergoes a youth movement.

Pakistan has always had the ability to unearth talent when least expected. Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis are just a few names from the not-so-distant past who were plucked from obscurity to international cricket.

The Pakistan one-day international and Twenty20 squad for the tour of the Caribbean has thrown up some surprising players who hope to continue in that tradition.

With the fallout from the World Cup, many senior players have been cast aside and much faith has been placed upon young and talented cricketers who have performed well in the Pakistani domestic circuit. It should come as no surprise, especially with the success of the young brigade at the World Cup - Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz and Asad Shafiq.

One such name who will be eying similar accomplishments in the West Indies is young middle order batsman Usman Salahuddin. The 20 year old has made a fantastic start to his cricketing career and impressed all those who have watched him in action.

Usman has blossomed in the recently concluded domestic season and now boasts a healthy first-class average of 41.8. Quite commendable for such a young player who has come up against some of the best bowlers Pakistan has to offer. Those who have observed him in domestic cricket have recognised his talent and tout him as a star of the future.

So steep has been his rise that Usman had just signed in the Nottinghamshire league and was all set for a season of club cricket in the United Kingdom. Yet things have taken a turn for the better and instead Usman finds himself part of the Pakistani touring squad.

Recently speaking with PakPassion.net, Usman could barely contain his elation at receiving his maiden call-up to the Pakistan cricket team.

"It's a dream come true - I was simply overjoyed and couldn't believe it. I had absolutely no idea that I would be selected for the tour. I was, in fact, playing a match at the time when I was informed that my name had come up for selection. It is a dream for any player to represent their country, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be given an opportunity at such a young age."

What has been most impressive about the attacking batsmen is his ability to play crucial knocks in pressure situations. He recently made the headlines for playing a match-winning hand of 56 not out in the One Day National Cup Division 2 final, hitting a four off the penultimate ball of the game to seal victory for the Lahore Eagles.

Although it is a great achievement to be selected, if he is not given game time, it will raise some questions about whether taking him to the West Indies was more beneficial to him than playing club cricket in England. A number of Pakistani cricketers have utilised English league cricket to great benefit.

Usman is not the only youngster being given an opportunity in the Caribbean. Hamad Azam, the all-rounder who played a major part in taking Pakistan through to the 2009 Under 19 World Cup final, is expected to fill the role vacant from the dropped Abdul Razzaq. Two 21-year-old, left-arm seam bowlers, Junaid Khan and Sadaf Hussain, will hope to continue the tradition of successful Pakistani quicks. While not quite young, 29-year-old wicketkeeper Mohammad Salman has long been knocking on the door of selectors and gets his chance in place of the under-fire Kamran Akmal.

Success for the new additions will give them a foot in the door and put pressure on the veterans missing from the touring squad.

Otherwise, with Pakistan's track record of unearthing and then discarding talents at the first sign of failure, it may lead to an extended hiatus in domestic cricket instead.

sports@thenational.ae