LAHORE: Pakistan’s selectors have taken some bold decisions by naming several youngsters in the T20 and Tests squads for the upcoming tour of Australia which reflects their positive intent to play good and aggressive cricket Down Under.
Nineteen-year-old fast bowler Musa Khan has been included in both squads while 16-year-old pace sensation Naseem Shah has been included for the two-match Test series.
Musa and Naseem, like Mohammad Hasnain and Shaheen Shah Afridi, are the products of the National Cricket Academy where they were trained and groomed for international assignments. The emergence of these young pacers has only strengthened the NCA’s reputation as a finishing school for the future stars.
Musa, who has sealed berths in both Test and T20I squads, made a big breakthrough in last year’s ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup where he took three wickets in two matches and impressed every one with his pace and control. In seven first-class games to date, Musa has taken 17 wickets.
In the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the right-armer has claimed five wickets in four matches while in his eight T20 matches so far, Musa has collected 12 wickets including a four-wicket haul in the ongoing National T20 tournament taking place at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad.
Talking to media, Musa said here on Tuesday, “I am really happy with my selection for the Australia tour, I am not thinking about bowling to the likes of David Warner or Steve Smith, rather I want to make an impression with my pace and penetration.
“My strength is bowling fast. Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar are my fast bowling ideals and I want to replicate their performances and instill fear in the batsmen like they did.”
On the other hand, right-armer Naseem has donned the national colours in age-group cricket at the U-16, U-19 and Emerging levels, while his sharp bouncers have made batsmen duck for cover at the domestic level also. Naseem first made an impression in the Pepsi Stars under-16 One-day tournament by taking four wickets in his first match. The youngster hasn’t looked back since and has made his presence felt at all levels. He took three wickets in two T20 matches against Australia under-16 and also impressed in the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup, taking six wickets in three matches.
In five first-class appearances, Naseem has taken 17 wickets; his best bowling figures in an innings are six for 59. In the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20, Naseem has collected nine wickets in three appearances.
About his selection for the Australia tour, Naseem said: “Inclusion in the national team is realisation of a dream; all professional cricketers aspire the same and work hard day-in-day-out. Bowling coach Waqar Younis has asked me to bowl on my strengths and that is exactly what I will aim to do in Australia.
“I have always been inspired and encouraged by watching videos of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. I aim to make an impression with my speed and swing if given a chance in the Tests against Australia.
“The conditions in Australia help fast-bowlers, my aim is to make maximum use of the conditions and give a tough time to the home side. Playing on hard and bouncy pitches there will be a great experience and a learning curve for me.”
The national selectors have also included legendary leg-spinner late Abdul Qadir’s son Usman Qadir in the T20 squad. The 26-year-old has played for Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash T20 League in Australia. In the ongoing National T20 Cup, Usman has impressed with his miserly economy rate and wicket-taking abilities.
Usman said: “I am really happy at my inclusion in the national team. I have good experience of Australian pitches and conditions. My father re-invented the googly and I feel that I am its custodian, I learned a lot from him and now is the time to deliver, when I left for Australia my father asked me to give it my all to don Pakistan colours and I am proud that I have made it to the national squad.
“Leg-spinner, googly and flipper are my main weapons, I am confident that I can trouble the batsmen on Australian pitches with these three deliveries.”
Bannu-born, 24-year-old left-handed batsman Khushdil Shah has scored 630 runs in 33 T20 matches with the aid of five half-centuries, his highest score is 65. Khushdil is known for his six-hitting prowess. In 50-over cricket, he has hit 82 sixes in only 54 appearances.
Khushdil said: “I am thrilled at my inclusion in the national T20I squad. I want to replicate my domestic cricket performances at the international level. My style of batting has always been aggressive; I will enter the international arena with the same mindset.”
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2019