Pakistan’s interim chief selector Shahid Afridi said it was “impossible” for fast bowlers to play all three formats consistently. Speaking in Karachi following the announcement of the Pakistan’s ODI squad for the upcoming series against New Zealand, Afridi emphasised the value of rest for fast bowlers, and the need to manage formats.
“You need to keep two bowlers whose priority is Test cricket,” Afridi said. “We’ve selected 5 fast bowlers [in the ODI squad] to allow other fast bowlers to rest. It’s not possible to continuously play all three formats for years on end. The pitches are such that even if the spinners are bowling 60-70 overs, they’ll burn themselves out.”
Pakistan’s management of their fast bowlers has come under increased scrutiny this season. Shaheen Shah Afridi has been unable to play any Test cricket following an injury he picked up during the T20 World Cup final, while Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf picked up niggles that kept them out of the bulk of the series against England and New Zealand. Naseem has return for the ongoing Test against New Zealand, and has been, by some distance, Pakistan’s best fast bowler over the two innings.
But questions around how seriously Pakistan take the welfare of the fast bowlers will invariably be raised after both fast bowlers were named in the squad for the New Zealand ODIs next week. It suggests conversations around workload management haven’t yet translated into the sort of rest pace bowlers – particularly those boasting high pace – get in other parts of the world. The selection of multiple fast bowlers means Pakistan do have the option of rotating, though with an ODI World Cup at ethe end of this year, it is not inconceivable Naseem and Rauf end up playing all three matches.
There wasn’t much of an element of easing Naseem back into the Test side, with the 19-year-old fast bowler bearing the brunt of the fast bowling responsibilities in each innings. In the first, he would send down 24 overs, more than either Mir Hamza or Hasan Ali, while the 13 he bowled the second time around were the highest among his seam-bowling compatriots.
New Zealand still have a full day’s worth of bowling left, but for now, Naseem’s 37 overs across the Test means one of the game’s fastest seam bowler, coming back from a shoulder injury, has bowled the most overs. Since July 2022, he has bowled 1241 deliveries across formats. That is the second-most balls bowled by a fast bowler after Mitchell Starc. For someone as young as he is, and as fast as he is, it is a considerable load to put his body through.
Mohammad Wasim and Rauf are also among the top 20, so understandably, it’s an issue that has piqued the concern of Pakistan fast bowling coach Shaun Tait, too. “I don’t think playing all three formats consistently can happen,” he said after the fourth day’s play. “There’s too much cricket. We’re aware of that. It’s going to be an important year for Pakistan with a couple of big tournaments towards the end of the year, so management of the fast bowlers is going to be critical.”