Former Pakistan skipper and member PCB cricket committee Wasim Akram
“Imam-ul-Haq is a talented cricketer, there is no nepotism involved here,” Akram told Cricingif.
“He has performed in domestic cricket, and has come through a process (A team, Under-19) and he has scored as well.”
Since making his debut against Sri Lanka in the UAE in 2017, the 23-year-old has represented Pakistan in 10 Tests and 17 ODIs. Despite struggling in the longer format on the South Africa tour, Imam scored a well-crafted 86 in Pakistan’s five-wicket win against the Proteas in the first ODI in Port Elizabeth.
“He is a team man and a very good fielder. There is undue pressure on him,” Akram added.
Pakistan’s batting performances throughout the Test series against South Africa were below-par, with batting collapses being a regular feature throughout the series. But Akram believes the ODI side has a better batting strength and says Mohammad Hafeez – the player of the match in Port Elizabeth – should continue in the middle order.
“The way Hafeez batted [in the first ODI], he looked comfortable at his spot.
“The World Cup is just around the corner. Pakistan
Akram was wary of the bounce at Kingsmead, where Pakistan play their second ODI against South Africa on Tuesday, but said the batting can win them the series.
“The pitch in Durban has a bit of bounce. If we bat well, we can win the series.
"It’s a five-match series and you have to improve your performance as South Africa will come back hard.”
While Pakistan put on an improved batting show as their 2017 Champions Trophy campaign progressed, it was their consistent bowling performances that proved key to eventually lifting the trophy. And Akram believes that Pakistan should stick to the template.
“Bowling has always been Pakistan’s strength. It’s a blessing in disguise for Pakistan as they play England just before the World Cup. That will give Pakistan an idea about their combination.”
Akram further emphasised the importance of variations in the modern game, given the Kookaburra ball doesn’t offer much for swing bowlers.
“The mindset of bowlers has changed; they are more reliant on variation rather than going after the wickets.
“The Kookaburra ball doesn’t swing in England despite two new balls.
“On flat decks, when teams are looking to score big, 280, 290 is a normal score. You cannot look for yorkers all the time as you might miss on length. You have to vary your length and that’s what restricted South Africa batsmen at the end [in first ODI].”