Pakistan News

Khushdil, uncapped Abdullah and Usman named in squad for Zimbabwe series

LAHORE: The trio of senior players including former captains Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik plus fast bowler Mohammad Amir were left out while uncapped players Abdullah Shafiq and Usman Qadir along with youngsters Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Musa Khan and Zafar Gohar were named by Pakistan selectors in a 22-member squad announced on Monday for the forthcoming limited-overs home series against Zimbabwe.

Pakistan face Zimbabwe in three One-day Internationals — all matches being staged in Rawalpindi from Oct 30 — followed by as many T20 Internationals in Lahore from Nov 7 to 10.

Leg-spinner Shadab Khan has been appointed as vice-captain in both ODI and T20 formats.

Besides two uncapped and three inexperienced players, the rest of the 17 squad members are experienced as chief selector-cum-head coach Misbah-ul-Haq decided not to take the visiting Zimbabweans easy and picked a number of experienced campaigners.

Misbah must have kept in view the importance of ODI cricket, as only top seven teams of the ICC one-day rankings will qualify for the 2023 World Cup. Pakistan currently hold the sixth place.

Sarfaraz, Shoaib and Amir omitted by selectors

The 20-year-old Abdullah, who hails from Sialkot, made a century on T20 debut to help Central Punjab pull off a remarkable chase of 201 against Southern Punjab. He finished the tournament with 358 runs in 10 innings at a healthy average of 44.75 besides maintaining the strike rate of 133. These include two half-centuries and a century. Abdullah made a century also in his only first-class appearance so far, making him the first Pakistani and second in the entire cricketing history to hit debut hundreds in both first-class and T20 cricket.

“The philosophy and thorough process behind the [team] selection is that we don’t want excessive experiments in ODIs and would rather play to our strengths,” Misbah said before announcing the list of players at a press conference in Lahore on Monday.

“Going forward, we know how important every single ODI game will be in terms of the 2023 ICC World Cup qualification. We want to win every game regardless of the opponent as we know Zimbabwe didn’t play much in the recent past and we don’t know what to expect. So we have to be watchful against them. Our intention will be to regain our winning momentum from when we last played against Sri Lanka a year ago,” Misbah said.

Pakistan last played an ODI in early October 2019 when they defeated Sri Lanka 2-0 under the captaincy of Sarfaraz Ahmed in a three-match home series at Karachi’s National Stadium where the first game of the series was abandoned due to heavy rain. The greenshirts’ one-off ODI against Bangladesh, scheduled to be staged in Karachi in April this year, and then a three-match ODI rubber in the Netherlands in July were called off due to Covid-19 pandemic.

While the only new face in the national squad is of Abdullah, a product of Pakistan U-19 team, the likes of Usman (no international match), Zafar (one ODI), Musa (one Test, one T20, no wicket) and Khushdil (one T20I) hold very little experience for international cricket.

Moreover, 34-year-old Khurram Manzoor (408 runs, second highest scorer) and 33-year-old Sohaib Maqsood (393, third best) finished above Abdullah in the just-concluded National T20 Cup, the selectors did not consider the duo perhaps due to their ages.

On omitting Sarfaraz, Shoaib and Amir, Misbah said all three would be on the selectors’ radar for the tough tour to New Zealand, scheduled for December-January, where Pakistan play two Tests and three T20 Internationals.

However, the trio face a bumpy road ahead as they have no visible support in the current PCB set-up. It seems Shoaib, who has been struggling for form, did not make the PCB happy by giving a controversial interview to an Urdu newspaper recently, while Amir’s decision to quit Test cricket without taking the PCB into confidence has gone against him.

“Sarfaraz was not selected because Rizwan is doing a fine job behind the wickets. [Therefore] Sarfaraz has been asked to play in the Quiad-e-Azam Trophy to get better prepared before the New Zealand tour,” Misbah said.

“Though we saw some outstanding individual performers in the T20 Cup, everyone cannot be given a chance. However, they have a chance for selection in the Pakistan ‘A’ team, which will tour New Zealand,” Misbah added.

“Seniors like Shoaib, Sarfaraz and Amir are the notable absentees in this list and that is mainly because we want to give youngsters a chance. Having all of them in the squad makes it tough to play youngsters, and their absence will provide players like Abdullah Shafiq, Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah better chances of featuring in the upcoming matches [against Zimbabwe].”

Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan begins when their 32-man squad arrives in Islamabad on Tuesday. The tourists will then undergo an isolation period from Oct 21 to 27 before they start training at the Pindi Cricket Stadium from Oct 28.

Squad: Babar Azam, Haider Ali, Abdullah Shafiq, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim, Rohail Nazir, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Rauf, Musa Khan, Wahab Riaz, Usman Qadir, Zafar Gohar.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2020

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