LAHORE: Attacking opener Sharjeel Khan and veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez were recalled to the Twenty20 team while former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was picked for all three formats as chief selector Mohammad Wasim on Friday announced Pakistan squads for the forthcoming tour to South Africa and Zimbabwe starting from March 26.
Leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan was included in the ODI and T20 squads as vice-captain.
Left-handed Sharjeel, who has returned to the national duty after a gap of four years, was suspended by the PCB for spot-fixing in the 2017 Pakistan Super League in August the same year for five years. Two and a half years of the sentence were suspended.
The 31-year-old batsman, who was in fine form in this year’s PSL, played the last of his 25 ODIs in January 2017 and has also played one Test and 15 T20 Internationals.
Hafeez, 40, was not part of the Pakistan T20 squad which beat South Africa at home 2-1 recently because he was not ready to remain in a bio-secure bubble after returning from the UAE where he was playing in the T10 league.
There have been question marks over Sharjeel’s physical fitness who returned to domestic cricket after announcing a public apology in August 2019. However, Wasim played down that factor.
Uncapped Abdullah Shafiq named in ODI, Test squads for Africa tour
“Sharjeel has the ability to win matches for Pakistan and he deserves an opportunity to further improve his fitness,” Wasim said after he announced the squads during a presser at the Gaddafi Stadium.
“For me only fitness level is not the criteria to select a player; the player’s current form irrespective of his age and seniority are equally important for selection. Although he [Sharjeel] is not exactly where we want him to be, he is not too far away,” the chief selector said.
Surprisingly however, in case of Shan Masood, the selectors have acted unfairly by overlooking him for the Zimbabwe Tests, keeping his overall record in view.
Though left-handed Shan had a forgettable tour of New Zealand in December, where he could not score in the Test matches, he is still among the best openers in the country and someone who has proved his credentials against fast bowling as well as spin.
Despite the New Zealand tour flop and being overlooked for the South Africa home Tests, Shan still ranks second behind skipper Babar Azam in Test run aggregate in the period from 2018 to 2021, scoring over 800 runs in 11 matches at an impressive average of 42 with three hundreds and as many fifties to his name.
None of ther openers including Abid Ali, Imran Butt, Fakhar Zaman and others have been able to match Shan’s prowess with the bat in Tests and the tall opener certainly deserved a chance on the African Safari.
Equally puzzling is the inclusion of top-order batsman Abdullah Shafiq in the Test and ODI squads. The 21-year-old right hander so far has featured in only one first-class match in 2019 in which he scored a century while representing Central Punjab, and has played his only List-A game earlier this year.
Among the newcomers for the African tour are fast bowlers Arshad Iqbal, Mohammad Wasim Junior and medium pacer Shahnawaz Dhani.
“I want to congratulate Arshad, Wasim Junior and Shahnawaz on their selections in the Pakistan squads. This is an acknowledgement and reward for their talent and performances in the 2020-21 domestic season,” said Wasim.
He noted that Imad Wasim, Aamer Yamin, Amad Butt and Kamran Ghulam had missed out on selections paving the way for Shadab and Hafeez in the T20 squad.
Wasim said though Pakistan had defeated South Africa in the Test and T20 series at home, Proteas were always a challenging side and beating them in their backyard would be tough.
“However, the way our players are [presently] performing we will give South Africa tough time and we have the ability to win on their soil,” he said.
The chief selector admitted that Pakistan’s success rate overseas was not impressive, adding it was why the country was lagging behind in international rankings.
“And it is a challenge for us to build a team which can win matches overseas,” he said.
Pakistan on their Africa tour will play seven T20 Internationals (four against South Africa and three against Zimbabwe), three ODIs (against South Africa) and two Tests against Zimbabwe.
On excluding Wahab Riaz, Hussain Talat and Khushdil Shah, the chief selector said they could not impress despite getting chances.
The T20 and ODI sides include 18 players each with 14 players featuring in both the formats, while the Test squad comprises 20 players with eight players figuring across all three formats.
These eight players are Babar Azam (captain), Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
According to the chief selector, all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz had been selected in place of Imad as the former was more utility bowler as well as batsman and could bowl at any stage of a match.
Wasim said he had no communication gap with any player as he had a detailed conversion with all axed players like Shoaib Malik, Wahab and others.
He said as Mohammad Amir was not available for selection he would not offer any comment on the pacer.
Two changes have been made in the 20-player Test side that defeated South Africa in Karachi and Rawalpindi. Kamran Ghulam and Yasir Shah have been replaced by Shahnawaz and leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood.
Dadu-born Zahid has been promoted to the Test squad after taking three wickets on his T20 International debut against South Africa following the non-availability of Yasir who is recovering from a knee injury he sustained during the Rawalpindi Test against South Africa.
Zahid was not selected in the T20 side because Shadab had returned, chief selector Wasim said.
Wasim said youngster Shahnawaz had been selected just for red-ball cricket against Zimbabwe, adding “if Pakistan had any Test against South Africa, the bowler would not have been selected”.
Shahnawaz, the 22-year-old from Larkana, took 26 wickets in his debut first-class season for Sindh after picking up six wickets in the second eleven National T20 Cup. He then followed up with five wickets in the Pakistan Cup one-day tournament and nine wickets for Multan Sultans in the HBL PSL 6.
The newcomers in the white-ball squads are 20-year-old Swabi-born fast bowler Arshad (T20 squad) and 19-year-old Wasim Junior from North Waziristan (both T20 and ODI squads).
Arshad has earned selection after claiming 10 T20 wickets and seven 50-over wickets in the 2020-21 season, while his Khyber Pakhtunkhwa team-mate Wasim Jr took seven 50-over wickets and four T20 wickets in the HBL PSL 6. He also featured in the 2020 U-19 World Cup.
Meanwhile, Wasim at the press conference said that the training camp of the South Africa-bound squad will begin on March 18 and will run until the team’s departure on March 26. The announcement came despite the Punjab government having decided to suspend sports activities in the province due to the spread of Covid-19.
T20: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Arshad Iqbal, Asif Ali, Danish Aziz, Faheem Ashraf, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sharjeel Khan, Usman Qadir
ODI: Babar (captain), Shadab (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafiq, Danish, Faheem, Fakhar Zaman, Haider, Haris, Hasan, Imam-ul-Haq, Hasnain, Nawaz, Rizwan, Wasim Jr, Sarfaraz, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah, Usman
Test: Babar (captain), Rizwan (vice-captain), Abdullah, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem, Fawad Alam, Haris, Hasan, Imran Butt, Nawaz, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz, Saud, Shaheen Shah, Shahnawaz Dhani, Tabish Khan, Zahid Mahmood
Players support personnel: Mansoor Rana (manager), Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Col Khalid Mahmood (security manager), Malang Ali (masseur), Raza Kitchlew (digital and media manager), Dr Riaz Ahmed (team doctor), Shahid Aslam (assistant coach), Talha Butt (analyst), Waqar Younis (bowling coach), Yasir Malik (strength & conditioning coach), Younis Khan (batting coach).
South Africa tour itinerary (Zimbabwe series schedule to be announced later):
March 26: Departure for Johannesburg
April 2: First ODI, SuperSport Park, Pretoria
April 4: Second ODI, Wanderers, Johannesburg
April 7: Third ODI, SuperSport Park, Pretoria
April 10: First T20, Wanderers, Johannesburg
April 12: Second T20, Wanderers, Johannesburg
April 14: Third T20, SuperSport Park, Pretoria
April 16: Fourth T20, SuperSport Park, Pretoria
April 17: Departure for Bulawayo
May 12: Departure for Lahore from Bulawayo.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2021