Nothing illustrates more lucidly the mysterious, whimsical workings of Pakistan selection committees than the decision not to select Mohammad Yousuf in the 15-man squad for the Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa.
They tried, bless 'em, to justify the decision to drop him but they came up empty. Yousuf was, in the words today of Salahuddin Ahmed, the chief selector, "a world-class player, no two ways about it." He is also currently Pakistan's best batsman and, as Ricky Ponting proves every day, a good batsman is a good batsman is a good batsman, be it over five days, 50 overs or 20. Yet, Yousuf did not make it into a 15-man squad with only two specialist middle-order batsmen.
First the selectors claimed they wanted to give him a rest, disregarding that he, unlike a number of senior players globally, wanted no such thing. They then admitted they wanted - no, needed - "one batsman who can stay at the wicket, because, whether it is a Test, an ODI or a 20-over game, you have to have one who can stick around and build."
From this they took a not inconsiderable leap and concluded - on what basis is still not clear - that Misbah-ul-Haq (ostensibly the replacement) might do the job better than Yousuf has been doing over the last year. Perhaps Misbah's impressive domestic Twenty20 average (just under 50) got him the nod over a man with over 14,000 international runs, 35 international hundreds and just off a patch so purple, popstar Prince would have been jealous.
No? Okay, then try this one: "We are trying out new and fresh names." At 33, Misbah is a few months older than Yousuf, so even if you give him more benefit than doubt (as noted commentator Omar Kureishi used to say of dodgy decisions), his best years are likely already lost to Pakistan. He last played an international for Pakistan nearly three years ago; after averaging 13 from five Tests and 33 from 13 ODIs, there was a reason he was not selected again. In short, he is as fresh as last month's pizza.
Were the selectors really serious about younger legs, a new spirit and all that, then any of Khurram Manzoor, Khalid Latif or Shahid Yousuf - all of whom impressed in spurts during the practice matches - made more sensible replacements. Even if they had not impressed, at least the selectors could have shielded themselves behind the mantra of giving youth its day.
Assurances obviously were given for his future. "This is not the end of his career, let me assure everyone," said Salahuddin. "We haven't treated him with any disrespect by dropping him and he is a great asset to the Pakistan team. It shouldn't be made into an issue of pride, because we haven't dropped him as such,"
True enough, his future in not in any serious doubt. But given that Yousuf was naturally unhappy at his omission - his weak proclamations otherwise notwithstanding - can Pakistan really afford to treat him this shabbily, especially given that Inzamam might no longer be on the scene either soon enough? Is Pakistan really blessed with that much batting talent
No other decision ruffled as many feathers as this one. Not even, sadly it must be said, the dropping of Abdul Razzaq. At his best, Twenty20 cricket is to Razzaq what water is to fish. A few overs of brisk, constricting and attacking medium-pace and a solid lower-order guarantee of boundaries; as Kamran Abbasi notes in this post
Razzaq's decline has meant what was once unthinkable is now reality.
Ultimately, though, in the absence of any solid logic, it is Yousuf's exclusion that bathes in innuendo, reporters winking, nudging and whispering, as no doubt will many followers. Here was further proof, some muttered, that the board was bent on cleansing the team of the religiosity it had been engulfed in.
No, others countered, it was aimed solely at diluting the hold of Inzamam-ul-Haq on this team, thus giving Shoaib Malik a greater chance to mould his own side. Wait a minute, some said, Misbah's was a pressure inclusion, instigated by the board and one not all selectors agreed to. Pakistanis love a conspiracy theory, it was noted once in The Economist. Probably, it concluded, because they have an uncanny way of coming true in Pakistan.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo