You can say a lot about Pakistan cricket team, but you could never accuse it of being boring. In over 30 years of watching and absorbing cricket in almost every orifice, Pakistan have has always been the most fascinating team to watch - on and off the field. Sadly, Pakistan cricket is in the mire at the moment. Security concerns mean that the team cannot play at home and to say that their antics in recent times are tantamount to a travelling circus would be an understatement.
The problems start at the top and the PCB is rotten to the core with Chairman Ijaz Butt more akin to a dictator of a military state rather than the leader of a humble cricket board. He undermines his selection committee, team management and captain at every turn and how he is still in the job is beyond belief. His reaction in ostracising the team's two best batsmen Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan following the Australian tour debacle is the sort of madness normally associated with despots like Kim Jong Il.
Then there are the politicians. Every time Pakistan lose a match accusations of match fixing abound as the next senator gets his 15 minutes in the sun. Heaven forbid that Pakistan lose because they have performed badly or have just come up against a better team. No it must be because some or all of the players have thrown the match. What nonsense.
Other ills include inconsistent selection, poor leadership by a succession of captains and player infighting that makes the spat between Henry II and Thomas a Becket look trivial in comparison. Not being Pakistani myself, I cannot fully understand all the problems surrounding the team, but as a fascinated onlooker I can see that there is an inherent sickness that needs curing.
It was all very different in the days of Imran Khan's leadership when he used the constant state of chaos surrounding the team to bring them together as a group of 'cornered tigers' with the the rest of the World against them. The results were sensational as they vied with the West Indies for the title of the World's best side in the late 1980s and then won the World Cup in 1992.
During my 30 years of watching cricket, Pakistan have been renowned for its battery of quick bowlers, its wily spinners and a series of wristy batsmen. But how many of the current side would make my composite XI of the last 30 years? Only one sadly and he is supposedly just about to retire.
The openers is a case of Saeed Anwar plus one other. Anwar's combination of graceful strokeplay and quick scoring has been solely missed since his premature retirement with Pakistan still searching for someone of Anwar's reliability and quality to open the batting. Mudassar Nazar takes the second opening slot for me ahead of Aamer Sohail, Majid Khan and Ramiz Raja, with his obdurateness being an excellent foil for the flamboyant Anwar.
Pakistan has been spoilt with quality middle order batsmen over the last 30 years and with Mudassar able to double up as the fifth bowler, I have given myself the luxury of picking six batsmen. Zaheer Abbas was known by some as the Asian Bradman, such was his thirst for runs and his style and elegance gets him in at number three ahead of Younis Khan. The combative Javed Miandad is Pakistan's highest test runscorer and in most observers opinion its greatest batsman so is a shoo-in at number four. Only three runs behind Miandad is Inzamam-ul-Haq and he gets the number five spot. When Inzy was in full flow he never looked like getting out, unless it was by a run out of course! The soon-to-be-retired (if you believe the reports) Mohammad Yousuf gets the number six spot ahead of Saleem Malik. In time people will remember Yousuf for his great batting rather than his impotent captaincy and for a time in the mid-2000's he was arguably the best batsman in the World.
The imperious Imran Khan is at number seven and naturally would be captain. He was the greatest of the four magnificent all-rounders of the 1980s just shading Kapil, Botham and Hadlee and is arguably one of the three best all-rounders ever along with Sobers and Miller. If only Imran was more involved with Pakistan cricket today, perhaps it wouldn't be in such a mess.
The wicketkeeper spot is a toss up between the superior glove work of a Wasim Bari or Rashid Latif, or the additional runs of a Moin Khan or Kamran Akmal. Thankfully, with Imran before him and Wasim Akram to come, the best keeper of the four can be selected and given that he was favourably compared with Allan Knott, Wasim Bari really was a fantastic keeper.
Then comes the aforementioned Wasim Akram, surely the best left arm quick of all time and a decent if slightly underachieving batsman to boot with a test best of 257. With complete mastery over swing and seam, ability to move the ball both ways and serious pace, Wasim was a fearsome sight especially in partnership with the equally devastating Waqar Younis. As an England fan, the performances of Wasim and Waqar on the 1992 tour was both frightening and wonderful depending on how strong my allegiance to the home side was at the time.
It's no surprise then that Waqar Younis comes next. The king of reverse and late swing, Waqar bowled so many batsmen with the late swinging yorker that the name of the delivery arguably should be changed to a 'Younis'. Sheer speed, an effortless technique and a strike rate up there with the best in history, Waqar was a seriously great bowler.
As referred to earlier Pakistan has produced a battery of fast bowlers in the last 30 years. Of these Safraz Nawaz, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Amir deserve a mention. Safraz was entering the sunset of his career when my cricket watching began but was one of the pioneers of reverse swing. Amir would have played more tests than he has but for discipline and drug problems, but it seems he is back to his best now. And what can you say about speedster Shoaib? Suffice to say that he is a larger than life figure, who doubtless a bollywood film will be made about one day. When he concentrates on his bowling though he bears comparison with Wasim, Imran and Waqar and would be my 12th man.
Quality spin has gone hand in hand with extreme pace, and there is an abundance of choice for the spinning position in the XI. But who to pick out of Abdul Qadir, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Danish Kaneira or Iqbal Qasim? This is where my childhood comes in and it is the mercurial Qadir who wins the day for me. Without him there may have been no Shane Warne and in a time of pace and seam, it was Qadir who flew the flag for leg spin. If I had to plump for a reserve, it would have to be Mushtaq Ahmed - well, I am a Sussex supporter!
So my team is as follows in bold with Shoaib and Mushtaq added to make a XIII to cover all conditions. If a fifth bowler was required then it would be Yousuf who would drop out for Shoaib or Mushtaq.
Saeed Anwar, Mudassar Nazar, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Imran Khan, Wasim Bari, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Abdul Qadir, Shoaib Akhtar and Mushtaq Ahmed