Azam, Asif selected but no place for Sarfaraz, Malik, Wahab as Pakistan's T20 World Cup squad is named
A number of experienced campaigners were left out as chief selector Mohammad Wasim announced the national squad for next month's T20 World Cup as well as the home series against New Zealand and England.
Former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz, veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik, hard-hitting opener Sharjeel Khan and utility player Fahim Ashraf were the notable absentees. Mohammad Amir had retired and was not in contention.
While the experienced quintet was snubbed, the young Azam Khan was picked in the 15-man squad, with his selection set to raise plenty of eyebrows due to his inexperience at the highest level and an underwhelming batting debut against England when he was out for just one.
Also in the squad is the out-of-form Asif Ali, who is finding runs hard to come by in the ongoing Caribbean Premier League 2021.
As expected, veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez made the cut despite enduring a lean year with the bat.
PSL 2021 standout Sohaib Maqsood has also been retained, while Mohammad Wasim Jr was the other surprise inclusion as his namesake announced the squad.
Pakistan's 15-man squad for World T20 and upcoming home series:
Babar Azam, Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Azam Khan, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shal, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Shaheen Afridi and Sohaib Maqsood.
Reserve players: Shanawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir and Fakhar Zaman
'PCB tried to cover all bases'
Commenting on the selection, Wasim said that the cricket board had tried to cover all bases by catering for the modern day brand of T20 cricket.
"This includes trusting the abilities, skills and experience of the players to perform in a high pressure global tournament in conditions that are familiar to us, as well as looking at the teams we will play in Group-2 matches," he said.
“Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah may not have impressive numbers against their names but hardly anyone can doubt their tremendous talent and prowess. They are the best in the available pool of middle-order batsmen and we remain confident that they will provide us solutions to our middle-order difficulties through solid performances," he said.
“These two experienced middle-order batters will compliment Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan and Shoaib Maqsood, while in Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan, we have three top quality spinners who are equally good with the bat and outstanding in the field," he said.
He said that Azam Khan was an "aggressive and attacking batter" who also keeps wickets, a combination that has earned him the selectors’ nod ahead of Sarfaraz Ahmed.
"Mohammad Wasim Junior has been preferred over Faheem Ashraf due to his pace and ability to hit big shots. Wasim will bolster the fast bowling unit, which comprises Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hasnain and Shaheen Shah Afridi," he said.
“Fakhar Zaman, Shahnawaz Dahani and Usman Qadir were unlucky to miss out on the selections. Sohaib Maqsood’s ability to bat and perform anywhere in the top-order has given him an edge over Fakhar, while the presence of three experienced spinners, who are also capable batters, and five genuine wicket-taking fast bowlers made it difficult for Usman Qadir to get into the side. Like Faheem, an uncapped Shahnawaz was tied with Mohammad Wasim Junior, but we opted for the latter due to his pace and batting abilities," he said.
The seven home T20Is in Lahore and Rawalpindi will be played from September 25 to October 14, while Pakistan will proceed to take on India in a battle of former champions in their T20 World Cup opener in Dubai on October 24 .