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October 20, 2020

Shafiq among probable players for Zimbabwe series

Sports

October 20, 2020

LAHORE: Senior players Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed and Muhammad Amir were sidelined while Abdullah Shafiq was called in as head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq on Monday named 22 probable players for the ODI and T20I series against Zimbabwe.

All rounder Shadab Khan has been appointed Pakistan’s vice-captain in both limited-overs formats.

Although the squad has been named for the full tour, squads for the ODIs and T20Is from this pool will be selected at a later date. A big pool has been picked to ensure all players can comply with strict Covid-19 protocols in a bio-secure bubble that will be in place for the full series. Announcing the probable players, Misbah insisted he has opted for experience in the 50-over matches and provided chances to the youngsters in the T20I format.

Pakistan have not played ODIs since the home series against Sri Lanka 12 months ago and the Rawalpindi matches will be part of ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League from which the seven top-ranked sides, apart from hosts India, will qualify directly for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.

The selectors have rewarded Central Punjab’s Abdullah with a call-up after the 20-year-old former Pakistan under-19 batsman finished as the seventh most successful batsman in the National T20 Cup with 358 runs with a strike-rate of over 133. Abdullah scored a century on his T20 debut, becoming only the second player in history to make a century on both first-class and T20 debuts.

Malik, who was player of the final, made way for Abdullah, while Rohail Nazir was named as wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan’s back-up. Sarfraz, who was part of the squad for the England tour, has been encouraged to feature in the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, starting October 25 to regain his form ahead of the New Zealand tour.

Amir was wicketless on the England tour and had a lacklustre stint in the National T20 cup with six wickets at 38.83.

Fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Naseem Shah were not considered for selection as they are recovering from injuries, but have been advised to play in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy to prove their fitness.

“The National T20 Cup saw some outstanding individual performances,” said Misbah. “A few leading performers may feel disappointed that they have been unable to break into the squad. But I want to reassure them that they will remain in consideration for the New Zealand tour and early next year’s home series. All they now need to do is to carry those impressive run of forms in the upcoming domestic competitions.

“Furthermore, the present T20I squad already comprises youngsters who have played very few matches. As such, it is logical and sensible that we give them the support and confidence by providing them extended runs so that they can show what they are capable of at the highest level and cement their places for future assignments,” Misbah said.

“We have resisted the temptation of experimenting in the ODIs for three simple reasons. Firstly, we cannot afford to be complacent and have to respect each and every opponent irrespective of their strength or international ranking. Secondly, every ODI counts as it leads towards automatic qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, and thirdly, we have not played any ODI cricket in the past 12 months.

“Abdullah Shafiq has been rewarded for his tremendous potential and performance. He has been identified as a future prospect and, therefore, drafted into the squad as part of his development.

“Seniors like Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed have not been picked for this series, but I want to categorically state that their careers are not over by any means as performance remains the only criterion for selection. These are strategic decisions as Shoaib’s absence will provide players like Abdullah Shafiq, Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah better chances of featuring in the upcoming matches.

“We have followed the same philosophy while leaving out Mohammad Amir and Usman Shinwari so that bowlers like Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan and Haris Rauf can get an extended run.

“Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz provide us that useful experience in the batting and bowling, respectively, that will benefit the youngsters.

“Similarly, not many will disagree that on present form, Mohammad Rizwan is the first-choice wicketkeeper in both white-ball formats. With an eye on future and as part of the succession plan, Rohail Nazir has been chosen as Rizwan’s back-up wicketkeeper. Instead of Sarfraz sitting on the substitute bench, it makes sense that he plays in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy so that he retains his fitness and rediscovers form for the tour for the longer and more demanding tour of New Zealand,” Misbah said.

The probable players will assemble in Lahore on Wednesday (tomorrow) for Covid-19 testing and after observing a five-day isolation period, during which they will play two 50-over matches at the Gaddafi Stadium, will travel to Rawalpindi on October 26.

The players for three T20Is will be shortlisted after the ODIs.

Batsmen: Abdullah Shafiq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Hafeez

Wicketkeepers: Mohammad Rizwan and Rohail Nazir

Spinners: Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir and Zafar Gohar

Fast bowlers: Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Shaheen Shah and Wahab Riaz

Series schedule (ODIs to start 1200, T20Is to commence 1530):

30 Oct – 1st ODI, Rawalpindi.

1 Nov – 2nd ODI, Rawalpindi.

3 Nov – 3rd ODI, Rawalpindi.

7 Nov – 1st T20I, Lahore.

8 Nov – 2nd T20I, Lahore.

10 Nov – 3rd T20I, Lahore.