LAHROE: The trio of senior players including seasoned batsman Asad Shafiq, veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik and paceman Mohammad Amir were the glaring omissions as head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq announced the names of 35 players here on Wednesday who will represent Pakistan’s Senior and Shaheen squads in the forthcoming tour of New Zealand.
While Pakistan’s Senior team will play three T20Is and two Test matches, the final schedule of the Shaheens is yet to be confirmed. The squad will leave for Lincoln on Nov 23 where they will spend the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
“Asad Shafiq has been a regular player of the Pakistan Test team but he has been dropped due to his current performance,” said Misbah while announcing the squads at a press conference here on Wednesday. “As our domestic cricket season is on in the country, Asad has a great opportunity to improve his performance and win back his place in the team.”
He said two senior players Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz have been retained due to their outstanding recent performances.
The Head Coach further said that on the last tour of England, Pakistan went with 29 players and now the number had been increased to 35 because now two teams would be formed — the Seniors and Shaheens.
“When Pakistan will start the tour with three T20 International matches, the Shaheens in which most of our Test players will be included will be busy in playing four-dayer against New Zealand A team and when Pakistan team will start the Test series the Shaheens will be playing the T20 matches,” said Misbah.
Young Amad Butt, Rohail Nazir, Danish Aziz and Imran Butt in squad
He explained that since the cut-off date for the submission of probable to New Zealand Cricket was Nov 12, some deserving players in the ongoing Quaid-i-Azam Trophy such as Nauman Ali, Saud Shakeel, Sajid Khan and Zahid Mahmood could not be considered for selection.
“But as we are also hosting South Africa in the next series, these players are likely to get a chance,” said Misbah who announced the team in his last assignment as chief selector.
He thanked all the coaches who had been working with him for the last one year in selection and expressed hope they would continue their good work with the new chief selector. Misbah also congratulated new faces Amad Butt, Rohail Nazir, Danish Aziz and Imran Butt for their selection in the squad.
To a question Misbah said though Pakistan’s winning record in New Zealand is impressive , the current New Zealand side is a very strong one and it is going to be a big challenge for the Pakistan players to perform and to win by giving 100 percent there.
Misbah said that while Babar Azam will be the captain of all the three formats, Shadab Khan has been named as his deputy for the T20s while Mohammad Rizwan will be vice captain in Tests. “Young wicket-keeper batsman Rohail Nazir will lead Pakistan Shaheens with Haider Ali his deputy,” he added.
Over the removal of Azhar Ali as captain, Misbah ssaid the PCB had talked with him over the change of captaincy and he is ok with it. “Since taking over the captaincy of T20 and ODIs, Babar’s own performance has remained impressive which shows he can take pressure despite being at the helm. So he has been appointed captain for all the three formats.”
To another question, Misbah said though the recent victory of Pakistan in a home series against rather a weak side of Zimbabwe raised the morale and confidence of the players, in New Zealand there it would be a different ball game.
“The way Usman Qadir performed against Zimbabwe and Haider Ali excelled in the last tour of England, we expect they will continue with the same performances as these will be vital for us to earn victories” he said.
He said doors are open for all the cricketers including Amir and Shoaib Malik as every player could make a place in the team on the basis of performance and the team’s requirements.
Misbah negated the impression that he was forced to quit the post of chief selector and Azhar Ali’s removal as captain had any link with their meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan over restoration of departmental cricket.
“The PCB is taking the decisions according to the requirement of the team, keeping in mind the international assignments ahead. I quit the post of chief selector to reduce the workload as a heavy schedule of cricket is ahead of Pakistan team,” explained Misbah.
He further added that prior to finalizing the 35 players, the input of six coaches of the provincial teams, head coach of Junior team Ijaz Ahmad and Head of the International Player Development Saqlain Mushtaq was taken.
In the 35 players, six openers, 11 middle-order batsmen, three wicketkeepers, 10 fast bowlers and five spinners are included.
The 35-player squad is:
Openers (six): Abid Ali (Central Punjab/Lahore Qalandars), Abdullah Shafiq (Central Punjab), Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars), Imam-ul-Haq (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi), Shan Masood (Soutern Punjab/Multan Sultans), Zeeshan Malik (Northern).
Middle-order batsmen (11): Babar Azam (captain) (Central Punjab/Karachi Kings), Azhar Ali (Central Punjab), Danish Aziz (Sindh), Fawad Alam (Sindh), Haider Ali (Shaheens vice-captain, Northern/Peshawar Zalmi), Haris Sohail (Balochistan), Hussain Talat (Southern Punjab/Islamabad United), Iftikhar Ahmed (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings), Imran Butt (Balochistan), Khushdil Shah (Southern Punjab/Multan Sultans), Mohammad Hafeez (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Peshawar Zalmi).
Wicket-keepers (three): Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain, Tests) (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings), Rohail Nazir (Shaheens captain, Northern/Multan Sultans), Sarfaraz Ahmed (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators).
Spinners (five): Imad Wasim (Northern/Karachi Kings), Shadab Khan (vice-captain, T20Is) (Northern/Islamabad United), Usman Qadir (Central Punjab/Multan Sultans), Yasir Shah (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi), Zafar Gohar (Central Punjab/Islamabad United).
Fast bowlers (10): Amad Butt (Balochistan/Islamabad United), Faheem Ashraf (Central Punjab/Islamabad United), Haris Rauf (Northern/Lahore Qalandars), Mohammad Abbas (Southern Punjab/Multan Sultans), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators), Mohammad Musa Khan (Northern/Islamabad United), Naseem Shah (Central Punjab/Quetta Gladiators), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars), Sohail Khan (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators), Wahab Riaz (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Peshawar Zalmi).
Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2020