LAHORE: In a significant strategic shift, the selectors are considering the option to drop veteran batsman Younis Khan from national ODI squad while asking Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq to bat at crucial number three position.

The squad for the Australia series in the UAE is to be announced next week. The series starts with the one-off T20 in Dubai on Oct 5.

The 36-year-old Younis, who has been confined to Test cricket since early last year, was included in the ODI party for the last series against Sri Lanka where he featured only in the first game of the three-match rubber, scoring three runs in that game at Hambantota.

The right-handed batsman in an emergency had to return home owing to the demise of his nephew.

Now the selectors have almost decided to axe the 254-ODI veteran from the game’s shorter version, citing his poor run of form in One-day Internationals.

Prior to the Hambantota ODI, Younis played his last ODI in March 2013 against South Africa at Benoni, making 29. It is interesting to recall that Younis registered his last 50-plus knock in ODIs against India at Chennai back in December 2012.

With a stack of 7,017 ODI runs (averaging 31.75) featuring six centuries and 48 half-centuries to his credit, Younis remains the most experienced batsman in the present lot of Pakistan players. But the unusual dip in ODI form of the warhorse — resulting in a 17-month absence of the warhorse from ODI scene — has perhaps compelled the selectors to look for other options as the all-important 2015 World Cup nears.

However equally interestingly, sources said, the selectors have not succeeded in convincing Misbah to bat at vital No.3 spot.

“For his slow but responsible batting style, Misbah can produce a better show at one-down position, which many believe is crucial in any format but Misbah is not yet convinced,” sources told Dawn.

“Misbah believes he is already under some pressure as his performance in the last series against Sri Lanka was sluggish, so a major change in the batting order at this moment, and that too against Australia who are one of the world’s best teams, may put him under added pressure, which he cannot afford until the World Cup,” sources close to Misbah said.

Though 40-year-old Misbah boasts a healthy-looking batting average of 43.75 in 149 ODIs in which he amassed 4,594 runs, the captain’s drop in his ODI form in the recently concluded ODIs in Sri Lanka has raised concerns in Pakistan cricket circles as a massive series against Australia awaits Misbah and company.

And even more importantly when the World Cup starts in February the skipper will be closer to 41, raising doubts about his ability to bat in relatively tough batting conditions in Australia and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, sources also said that in place of suspended off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar could be given a chance in the two-Test series against Australia alongside off-spinner Hafeez.

Yasir Shah or Raza Hasan are two other favourite spinners to get place in the ODI team.

In the first discussion which was held in Lahore the other day, the selectors finalised 20 names for both Test and ODI squads but the final teams for the Tests, three ODIs and one-off T20 against the Aussies will be announced in Karachi next week.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2014

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