The independent voice of cricket

Pakistan Super League 2023

Imad Wasim does not play for Pakistan anymore, and it is not clear why

Imad Wasim
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 5 minute read

Imad Wasim can hit sixes and bowl inexpensive overs, writes Abhishek Mukerjee, so there must be something he does not do, for none of that has helped him earn his place back in the Pakistan side.

For the latter part of the 2010s, Imad Wasim was a near-ever-present in Pakistan’s white-ball sides. He racked up more than 50 caps in both ODIs and T20Is, serving as part of a team that had its successes and near-misses, winning the Champions Trophy in 2017, narrowly missing out on the Cricket World Cup semi-finals in 2019, and falling in the last four of the 2021 T20 World Cup.

And yet Pakistan’s defeat to Australia in that tournament remains Imad’s last in the green of Pakistan. He has fallen out of favour, and it is hard to work out why.


Let us start with ODIs first, a format where Imad has 986 runs. Of all batters with more runs and an average more than Imad’s 42.86, no one across space or time strikes at a rate quicker than his 110.

If we can avoid getting swayed by unnecessary conventions of using multiples of 10 as filters, that already makes Imad a special batter who can somehow score quickly without getting out.

But batting is not the only thing Imad does. He also has 44 wickets from 55 ODIs while going at 4.88 an over. Of all Pakistan bowlers who have bowled at least as many balls as he has since 2015, no one else has gone at under five.

Drafted into the side as the suspended Saeed Ajmal’s replacement, Imad did not take as many wickets as the offie with a suspect action, but more than made up the deficit with the bat.

In ODIs, thus, Imad is an exceptional all-rounder – though the selectors have seen him as such since November 2020.

Twenty20 is different. Unlike in ODIs, where he bowls seven overs a match, he sends down 3.3 overs in a T20 International. Put otherwise, he bowls his full quota more often than not.

In other words, he is more of a bowling all-rounder in this format. As his T20I record – 55 wickets at 23.49, economy 6.25 – suggests, Imad is no ordinary bowler. In all Twenty20, his 251 wickets have come at 25.35 apiece as he has gone for 6.50 an over.

There are only three bowlers from Full Member nations with 50 wickets and an economy rate better than Imad’s. Samuel Badree, Sunil Narine, and Rashid Khan are not merely giants of the format but also pioneers in their own ways.

That is the league of cricketers Imad belongs to – and that is only the bowling. None of Badree, Narine, and Rashid matches Imad’s T20I batting strike rate 144.

In fact, if one puts a 300-run cut-off on the 50-wicket group, only Thisara Perera, Shahid Afridi, and Shadab Khan have scored quicker than Imad.

It is not exactly clear why or how Imad fell out of contention after November 2021, but the selectors left him out of the ODI squad for the West Indies tour of May 2022.

“Imad’s performance in the recent past wasn’t up to the mark. He also has fitness issues which is why he is suffering,” explained chief selector Mohammad Wasim – a curious statement about a person who had, across his three ODIs since the 2019 World Cup, returned 22-1-130-3 and scored 46 in 34 balls, once dismissed – or gone at 6.93 an over in T20Is in 2021.

Curiously, the reasons had not been conveyed to Imad until at least September 2021. “I don’t know why I was dropped from the side,” a baffled Imad had told Cricket Pakistan.

At 34, time is running out for Imad, but it is not clear exactly what he needs to do in order to find a way back to the Pakistan national side. Perhaps it is about fitness. Or perhaps the fact that they have younger all-rounders in Shadab and Mohammad Nawaz, backed by Mohammad Wasim, a seam-bowling all-rounder, and batters who bowl, like Iftikhar Ahmed.

Imad, however, continues to play domestic cricket and in the PSL. There may not be room for him in a pool of 11 or even 15, but away from the top level, he continues to bowl inside the powerplay and biff his way to quick runs down the order.

In 2022, he went for 6.82 an over at the PSL while striking at 142. The PSL is, after all, his territory. Of all Karachi Kings cricketers, only Babar Azam and Sharjeel Khan have more runs (Babar at a rate slower than Imad’s); and only Mohammad Amir has more wickets (but Imad’s overs have been cheaper).

With Babar leaving for the Peshawar Zalmi, the Kings have appointed Imad as their captain for the season. It is a role that sits well, for he has led Pakistan before, albeit as a stopgap option.

He has begun the season in stunning fashion, with an unbeaten 47-ball 80 in a narrow defeat against Peshawar Zalmi. Perhaps this is where the long upscale climb will resume.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99