THE arrival of New Zealand’s cricket team to play a series for the first time in the country since 2003 offers the much-criticised Pakistan selection for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup a chance to prove the doubters wrong. Of course, it doesn’t help boost the confidence of the players when the man who made the selections is having second thoughts himself. Under-fire chief selector Mohammad Wasim on Friday hinted that there could be changes in Pakistan’s World Cup squad as the team searches for the right combination in the series against New Zealand and England preceding the mega tournament in the UAE. New Zealand arrived in Pakistan shorn of eight top players who are featuring in the rescheduled IPL. Yet, Pakistan don’t have fond memories of when they last played against a second-string — rather third-string — side. They were whitewashed by an England side in a three-match ODI series in July. New Zealand will also play three ODIs before a five-match T20 series. It will be the T20s against New Zealand and the two T20s against England which will test Pakistan’s World Cup credentials with the team having won just two of their last four completed T20s. The seven matches will show whether Mr Wasim’s assertion that his selection was the best possible combination holds. While opening the door for potential changes, he has defended calling up Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah and Azam Khan saying those who were given a chance in the middle order recently had failed to cement their places in the squad.

The chief selector also expressed his reservations regarding those players provided a chance by the team management that recently exited. Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis resigned with the imminent arrival of Ramiz Raja as PCB chairman. Vice captain Shadab Khan said that the incoming boss wants the team to play aggressive cricket. This together with positive results against New Zealand will help instil confidence in the team and raise hopes of a solid performance at the World Cup.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021

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