KARACHI: Sohaib Maqsood earned a recall to the Pakistan squad for their forthcoming tours to England and West Indies in bizarre circumstances after it emerged that the Peshawar Zalmi pair of Haider Ali and Umaid Asif were suspended from participating in Thursday’s HBL Pakistan Super League 6 final in Abu Dhabi after breaching the bio-secure bubble.

According to a PCB media release issued early on Thursday, Haider — who had been struggling for runs and is no longer in Peshawar frame — and seamer Umaid admitted to charges of violating the HBL PSL 6 Health and Safety Protocols by meeting people from outside their designated bio-secure bubble and also failing to maintain the prescribed social distancing.

The incident took place on Wednesday and the decision was taken by the Tournament Covid-19 Management panel comprising PCB COO Salman Naseer and the board’s director commercial Babar Hamid, who is also head of PSL.

Both Haider and Umaid were found not to have interacted with any other squad members at any time following the incident and have been placed in room isolation. Haider, the 20-year-old right-hander from Attock, had lost form since the competition resumed at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium and was axed by his franchise after scores of 3, 0, 28 and 16 during the second leg, while aggregating only 166 runs in nine matches across the two legs.

The Sialkot-born Umaid, 37, bagged eight wickets in nine appearances in this PSL but his economy of 9.71 runs per over had been a major worrying point for the Wahab Riaz-led Peshawar side despite the seamer being a regular part of the playing XI in Abu Dhabi.

But while Umaid misses out playing the final against Multan Sultans, Haider has been subsequently withdrawn by the selectors for Pakistan’s upcoming white-ball series against England and the West Indies, respectively with chief selector Mohammad Wasim inducting the big-hitting Sohaib — the success stories behind Multan Sultans’ road to the decider after amassing 363 runs at a strike rate of 152.52 in 11 matches of the ongoing competition — in his place.

Now 34, the Multan-born Sohaib had not played international cricket since January 2016 when Pakistan toured New Zealand. In 26 ODIs, the tall right-hander scored 735 runs at an average of 31.95 with an unbeaten 89 — versus Sri Lanka at Hambantota in August 2024 — the highest among his five half centuries.

Sohaib’s T20 International record, however, is rather patchy with just 221 runs from 20 appearances at a strike rate of 109.95 with a best of 37 — while batting at No 5 — against South Africa at Dubai in November 2013, and managed just four other knocks between 21 and 26.

Fitness issues over the years had also hampered Sohaib’s progress, and it was not until last season, he announced himself with a plethora of impressive innings after focusing on white-ball cricket. He was the third highest run-getter during the National T20 Cup — staged in Multan and Rawalpindi — with 393 while striking four 50-plus scores and maintaining an excellent strike rate of 167.94 and playing key part for Southern Punjab, who lost the final to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by just 10 runs at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.

Sohaib was equally consistent for his regional outfit in the Pakistan Cup, held at Karachi, and hit up two centuries while making 455 at 45.50 in 10 matches before carrying the good form into the HBL PSL 6, and inspiring Multan Sultans to their first-ever final.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021

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