Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan head coach and former captain, has come out in support of late-bloomers in international cricket, saying that age should not determine a player’s selection as long as he is fit.

Misbah was speaking in the context of Pakistan giving a Test debut to pacer Tabish Khan at age 36 against Zimbabwe in Harare last week. The move came in for some criticism as Pakistan left out seam-bowling all-rounder Faheem Ashraf, who brings balance to the line-up. Tabish went on to take a solitary wicket from 26 overs as Misbah justified the veteran’s selection, citing workload management as one of the reasons.

"We didn't give a chance to Tabish at the cost of hampering our strengths or team balance. It was a case of managing workload for Faheem who has been an all-format player for us in recent times,” Misbah said. 

“He wasn't dropped at all. He is a key player for us. This was just an opportunity for us to test out a player who has been an excellent domestic performer. We have tried to give chances to the fringe players even in the shorter formats."

Tabish became the oldest Test debutant for Pakistan in 66 years, having taken 598 first-class wickets before receiving the chance to represent his country. Misbah, who was recalled and made Pakistan captain at the age of 36 following the spot-fixing scandal in 2010, further substantiated his argument by giving his own example having played until he was 43.

"We need to stop predetermining the future of players. I was captain at 36. I played for another seven years after that. We can't pre-judge that just because a player is 36 when he starts, he won't last long. Tabish has been performing in domestic cricket for years. Let's see how he does in international cricket.

"There are different factors in selection. Some team combinations are such that even a well-performing player doesn't make it. When I was doing well, our middle order was packed with Inzamam (-ul-Haq), Younis (Khan) and (Mohammad) Yousuf in it. Same with Fawad Alam. He couldn't make it earlier. It happens in every era.

“Even in Tabish Khan's case, it's the same. It has happened earlier too, during the times of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Regarding comebacks at a late age, I've always felt that if a player is fit enough, age doesn't matter. Especially for Test cricket. You can never predict how long they can serve the team. Whoever performs for the team should get chances."

Featured Image: Twitter/ Tabish Khan