Cricket Expert & Columnist
Mohammad Yousuf's recall proves Pakistan are a team lacking clear direction, says Michael Atherton.
Last Updated: 05/08/10 11:23am
It will be remarkable if Mohammad Yousuf plays for Pakistan in the second Test, which begins on Friday at Edgbaston.
The 35-year-old is expected to arrive in England less than 24 hours before the start of the match and no-one within the tourists' camp seems to know if he's fit, in form or who has pushed for his inclusion.
It sums up the state of panic that Pakistan are in after the walloping they received in the first Test; this is a team that is not sure what direction it is heading in.
To that end Salman Butt, the captain, has my sympathy because the next few weeks will be a tremendous test for him and he will do well to come through them unscathed.
The 25-year-old has been quite impressive so far on this tour; he has remained calm and has spoken sensibly since Shahid Afridi's swift exit, despite all that is happening around him.
In the aftermath of that 354-run loss at Trent Bridge, Butt said that he wanted to stick with the young group of players in his charge and build for the future.
Yousuf's recall would suggest that his wishes, and perhaps those of coach Waqar Younis too, have been over-ridden which puts them both in a difficult position.
As a captain you never want to give the impression to any player that you don't want him in your side - no matter how experienced or how tempted you might be to make a point to the selectors.
There were times when I was England captain when I was aware I wasn't the strongest voice in selection; in fact, towards the end of my time in charge I wasn't a selector at all.
In those circumstances you are given a team and simply get on with it.
If, on the other hand, you feel it's your job to pick and mould a team and then you get people forced upon you matters become more problematic and tension can build.
If the players feel the selectors are making decisions on the hoof without a great deal of thought, confidence can ebb away with disastrous results.
Butt already has to try to instil belief in a young batting line-up that on recent evidence looks very feeble. That task becomes doubly difficult when your own runs dry up as Butt's did at Trent Bridge, where he tallied nine in total.
But let's not write Pakistan off because cricket is still a game where individuals can determine a team's fate for the good and turn things around pretty quickly.
Butt could go out and get a hundred on the first morning or Mohammad Aamer might take a hat-trick and roll England over.
Indeed, England would do well to remember that things could have been less rosy at Trent Bridge had Pakistan taken the chances that came their way.
Although it was a comprehensive defeat in the end, I felt Butt was right when he said that things could have been very different.
Within the run of play there were times when Pakistan were in the game - England 118-4 in the first innings and 98-6 in the second most noticeably. It wasn't all one-way traffic and both sets of players would do well to dwell on those moments.
As is usual with England, the spotlight is on one or two players going into this Test, which I guess is the nature of being an international player in an age where there is so much media coverage.
For my own part, I'm more worried about the form of Alastair Cook than that of Kevin Pietersen who remains a top-class player and will come good soon enough.
Cook's problems are more fundamental - his footwork in particular looks suspect - but he has shown over time that he is a pretty tough customer who is capable of getting runs when he is not at the top of his game.
He's up against an attack that will pitch the ball up, particularly Mohammad Asif who bowls a very full length for a modern-day Test bowler. Aamer looks to pitch it up and swing it too and that's when Cook struggles.
Nicks must be caught, of course, and that's where England excelled last week - complementing the fine bowling of Jimmy Anderson in particular.
The team is clearly benefitting from the work of fielding coach Richard Halsall, which is definitely having an impact.
In the past teams have put in plenty of practice but Halsall's approach has taken matters to a whole different level.
I've seen some of his analysis, which details every ball, miss-field, catch and dropped catch. The players are fully aware that someone is monitoring their every move in the field, which is a motivational tool in itself.
Up until now it has been hard to judge how good an individual's fielding actually is.
With batting and bowling, the facts are much clearer; the scoreboard shows if you are 70no or walking off with a duck to your name, if you have taken 5-10 or 0-100. The results of your hard work are very clear for all to see.
The focus is not so sharp on fielding. A player can take a brilliant catch but then go several games without getting near one. Could he be doing more to make something happen? Halsall's analysis will now help to tell us.
When you watch the players warm up you get a real sense of how much hard work they put into this aspect of the game and, for now at least, it certainly appears to be paying off.