KARACHI: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed was among a list of six regulars who have been rested for the forthcoming five-match One-day International series against Australia in the United Arab Emirates, the national selection committee announced here on Friday.
On the day Australia also named their squad — minus the injured trio of Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith and David Warner — for the March 22-March 31 fixtures, Umar Akmal has been recalled to the national side after a 20-month hiatus following his contentious exclusion from that Pakistan team which won the ICC Champions Trophy in June 2017 after failing a fitness test.
Veteran batsman and former skipper Shoaib Malik will once again lead the team in Sarfraz’s absence after briefly taking over the reins midway through the ODI series against South Africa when the combative wicket-keeper/batsman was handed a four-match ICC ban for making racist remarks against Proteas’ all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo.
But according to sources close to Sarfraz, the regular all-format captain had expressed his desire to play the series against Aaron Finch’s men but chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, while addressing the media at the National Stadium, openly stated the decision to give Sarfraz was unanimously taken by him and his fellow selectors.
“Our main focus is the World Cup and we don’t a situation where problems could surface since we have a heavy workload with another series against England to come before the World Cup. I want to make it clear the players who are being rested all had played non-stop cricket for a long period of time. And the same criteria is being applied in Sarfraz’s case as well,” Inzamam told reporters.
“We want the players [who will be going to the World Cup] fresh for the mega event. We have picked [Mohammad] Rizwan as a replacement for Sarfraz. But it doesn’t mean that if Rizwan performs exceptionally in the upcoming matches, the position of Sarfraz will be in danger. There a big difference in the stature of both wicket-keepers because Sarfraz is the Pakistan captain who has always given his best.”
With Rizwan donning the wicket-keeping gloves, the selectors have made wholesale changes. Abid Ali, the 31-year-old right-hander from Lahore, has been finally rewarded for an outstanding domestic season along with fellow uncapped player Mohammad Hasnain, the teenage Hyderabad fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain who has picked as the 16th player after making a startling entry in the ongoing Pakistan Super League for the Sarfraz Ahmed-led Quetta Gladiators.
While top-order batsmen Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, spinner Shadab Khan, the pace duo of Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi were all being given rest after a strenuous international schedule over the past five months, the selectors have called up injury-plagued left-hander Haris Sohail, Test seamer Mohammad Abbas, still yet to play ODIs, leg-spinner Yasir Shah, a fit-again Junaid Khan and uncapped left-hander Saad Ali, while batsman Hussain Talat was dropped.
Mohammad Hafeez, now recuperating from a thumb injury sustained during the PSL after leading Lahore Qalandars in a couple of matches, was not considered as he races against time to get fit before the World Cup.
“Hafeez, no doubt, has been a key member of our team. We are hoping he recovers quickly and makes himself available for selection once again after proving his fitness” Inzamam remarked.
Commenting on the overall team selections, Inzamam said: “Our aim to build a strong bench-strength and I think we are being quite successful in this respect. This is a good sign for our cricket because when we are blessed with a big pool [of players], the level of competitiveness goes high.
“The series against [world champions] Australia won’t be that easy but these players will become better after being tested to the limits. Some may even come into contention for World Cup selection. This is great opportunity for them to prove themselves at the international level after performing exceptionally in domestic competitions.”
The team leaves for Dubai on March 18.
Squad: Shoaib Malik (captain), Shan Masood, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Haris Sohail, Saad Ali, Mohammad Rizwan (wicket-keeper), Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain.
March 22: First One-day International (Sharjah, D/N).
March 24: Second One-day International (Sharjah, D/N).
March 27: Third One-day International (Abu Dhabi, D/N).
March 29: Fourth One-day International (Dubai, D/N).
March 31: Fifth One-day International (Dubai, D/N).
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2019