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Tuesday Apr 14 2020
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Pakistan's best-ever Test XI - statistically speaking

Let it be very clear that this hypothetical line-up is picked solely on stats and stats alone. It picks 11 of those Pakistani Test players who have the best career numbers in their positions.

The line-up is a standard one with two openers, four middle-order batsmen, an all-rounder, three pacers and a spinner. To leave out the anomalies and one-hit wonders, a minimum of 3,000 was the eligibility criteria for batsmen and 100 wickets for bowlers.

Let’s go:

Opener 1: Saeed Anwar

Photo: File 

Arguably the most stylish cricketer ever produced by Pakistan (or any xyz-istan), Saeed Anwar shone the brightest in ODIs but still makes this eleven, thanks to his career average of 45.53. At the start of his career, the lefty was typecast as an ODI ‘hitter’ which explains why he only played 55 Tests in a career spanning 15 years.

Nonetheless, his body of work coupled with Pakistan’s struggle to produce reliable openers means he makes the list.

Opener 2: Hanif Mohammad

Photo: File

Anwar was flamboyant but lacked a little bit of grit and determination. Enter the great Hanif Mohammad who had loads of both. The original Little Master also played just 55 Tests and averaged 43.99.

The only deceased member of this side edges out Azhar Ali, who has several thousand runs more but has an inferior batting average of 41.89.

Number 3: Younis Khan

Photo: AFP

Although he slipped to number four in the second half of his career, Younis Khan used to bat one-down earlier in his career. His place in the side was a lock obviously (most career runs for Pakistan in Test cricket), but the fact that he is Pakistan’s highest scorer at number three, too, is why he appears here in this line-up. His overall career average of 52.05 also further enhances his case.

Number 4: Javed Miandad

Photo: Cricket Australia 

The great Javed Miandad scored 6,925 of his 8,832 runs at number four and maintained an average of 52.57—highest among all Pakistani batsmen—over 124 matches. His average at two-down is actually higher (54.10), which is why he got the nod despite fierce competition.

Number 5: Mohammd Yousuf

Photo: File 

The cricketer formerly known as Yousuf Youhana is actually not Pakistan’s highest scorer at number five; his arch-nemesis Misbah-ul-Haq has that honour albeit with a much lesser average.

But Misbah obviously does not make the cut here, which leaves the door open for Yousuf to make number five spot his. A career average of 52.29 (behind only Miandad) makes him a no-brainer for this side.

One cannot, not mention his 2006 world record of amassing 1,788 runs in a calendar year – an achievement unmatched till date.

Some would be disappointed by not seeing Zaheer Abbas in here. For them, it’s worth mentioning that the Asian Bradman scored almost eight runs less per innings than the bearded fella.

Number 6: Inzamam-ul-Haq

Photo: File

How can a Test team of Pakistani greats in almost any format be complete without Inzamam-ul-Haq? The 6’3 batter averaged a near half-century in Tests (49.61 to be precise), and is one of only four Pakistanis with a triple century in the five-day game.

Inzi’s ideal position in this side would have been number four or even five but Miandad and Yousuf had made more compelling statistical arguments for those spots. Izi, the poor fella, gets shunted down to sixth.

Wicketkeeper: Kamran Akmal

Photo: AFP

Yes, you read that right! But before you close this article, blacklist this website and smash your smartphone into the wall, hear us out.

It clearly said it above that players picked in this line-up are based on numbers and numbers alone. And truth is that Kamran Akmal has the highest dismissal rate per match (3.89) of any Pakistani wicketkeeper in Test cricket.

If this list was a subjective one, maybe Wasim Bari would have made it, but his dismissal ratio of 2.81 is far behind Akmal’s numbers. Not to mention that Bari averaged just 15.88 runs as a batsman to older Akmal’s 30.79. But we swear we’re not holding that against him

Rashid Latif (3.51), widely thought to have the safest hands, is close to Akmal but not close enough. Sarfaraz Ahmed is third on the list (3.41) and is the most consistent wicketkeeper-batsman (36.40 runs per innings), but as mentioned we’re mainly looking at dismissals here.

Look, maybe in Latif and Bari’s eras the bowlers were targeting the wickets more? We know for a fact the 2W’s were. We’re clutching at straws here but that’s the only explanation why a man infamous for his butter fingers has the highest per-match dismissal ratio. Take it on the chin and move on. After all, it’s not like we picked the other Akmal.

Captain: Imran Khan

Photo: ESPN

There is not much to justify here. He pretty much selects himself. Think what you may about the ‘selected’ Imran Khan (pun shamefully intended), he as a cricketer was unmatched and all things considered, Pakistan’s greatest.

The prime minister’s Test bowling average of 22.81 is better than any Pakistani with a minimum of 100 wickets. He also averaged 37.69 with the bat. The captain, leader, legend.

Fast bowler 1: Wasim Akram

Photo: File

Here is another whose selection is not up for debate. The only way to he’d have been left out was if we were also considering the record to be crystal clean (*cough*Justice Qayyum report*cough*).

Anyway, Wasim Akram is Pakistan’s highest wicket-taker (414), took a wicket every 23.62 runs and is arguably the greatest bowler, or even cricketer, produced by the country.

Fast bowler 2: Waqar Younis

Photo: AFP

A career haul of 373 wickets (second-highest among Pakistanis) at an average (23.56) marginally better than Akram’s and a strike rate miles better than Akram’s (43.5 to 54.65) is why Waqar Younis is also a shoo-in.

The likes of Fazal Mahmood, Shoaib Akhtar and even Mohammad Asif deserve a mention but do not make an argument strong enough to warrant delisting of Younis.

Only spinner: Saeed Ajmal

Photo: AFP

Due to the composition of the side, we’d have to have a spinner in here. Otherwise, we would have taken Akhtar probably. But since sticking to the set composition is required, we’ll have to pick Saeed Ajmal.

Again, like Akmal above, Ajmal is not the sexiest spinner in the pool but has the best numbers among his competition. He took 178 wickets every 28.11 runs, with his average being slightly better than Doosra inventor Saqlain Mushtaq’s 29.84.

Ajmal, a Saqlain clone, also has a slightly better strike rate (65.15 to 67.64) than his idol, which leaves us no option but to pick him.

FYI, Danish Kaneria has the most wickets for Pakistan among all spinners but his average of 34.80 is way too high to warrant a rethink.