DUBAI: Pakistan and Australia look to build their squads in the shortest format of the game when they meet in the lone Twenty20 international in Dubai on Sunday, but both are missing key men.
Pakistan, who were World Twenty20 champions in 2009, will be without their key spinner Saeed Ajmal who is suspended from international cricket after his bowling action was found illegal last month.
Ajmal had been single-handedly shouldering Pakistan's bowling attack, having taken 85 wickets in 63 Twenty20 matches — the highest by any bowler in this format.
The wily spinner has missed only three T20 matches out of the 66 Pakistan have played since his debut in 2009.
Pakistan had a miserable World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in April where they failed to reach the last four for the first time in five editions of the tournament.
That prompted captain Mohammad Hafeez to step down, giving the responsibility to all-rounder Shahid Afridi for a second time.
Pakistan have included left-arm spinner Raza Hasan to replace Ajmal and also have an exciting leg-spinning all-rounder in Saad Nasim who is uncapped at this level.
Afridi hopes he will be able to guide the young squad towards the 2016 World Twenty20.
“We don't have to look back, who is not available. We have to think of rebuilding the squad for the 2016 World Twenty20,” said Afridi.
Australia too have a new captain in Aaron Finch who took over after George Bailey stood down to concentrate on one-day cricket.
Australia also went out of the last World Twenty20 in the group stages but have won six out of their nine shorter format games this year compared to Pakistan's two from four.
Finch too have a young squad after experienced all-rounder Shane Watson was ruled out of the full tour with an ankle injury. His likely replacement Mitchell Marsh is also doubtful for Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury.
Paceman Pat Cummins will also miss out due to his involvement in a Twenty20 tournament in India, but dashing hitter Glenn Maxwell and uncapped leg-spinner Cameron Boyce are likely to join the squad.
“It goes without saying that I will do my utmost in this role [as captain] as we head into the World T20 in eighteen months' time. It's going to be very exciting,” said Finch.
Australia can also recall top order batsman Phil Hughes, part of the one-day squad, in case they need him. The Twenty20 will be followed by three one-dayers and two Tests.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (capt), Ahmed Shahzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Sohaib Maqsood, Awais Zia, Saad Naseem, Raza Hasan, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Bilwalal Bhatti, Anwar Ali, Sohail Tanvir.
Australia: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Sean Abbott, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson, Cameron Boyce.
Umpires: Shozaib Raza (PAK) and Ahsan Raza (PAK) TV umpire: Ahmed Shahab (PAK) Match referee: Javagal Srinath (IND)