LAHORE: Hours before Pakistan’s Twenty20 World Cup squad was to enter a bio-secure bubble on Friday, a meeting chaired by Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja saw several key decisions taken including a recall for former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Sarfaraz was one of three changes made to squad by chief selector Mohammad Wasim following the meeting which was also attended by captain Babar Azam and acting chief executive Salman Naseer.
It was also decided that interim head coach Saqlain Mushtaq will continue his role during the World Cup.
Wicket-keeper Sarfaraz replaced Azam Khan, who was dropped after a review of performances in the on-going National T20 Cup.
Azam’s selection had come under criticism from several quarters after the 15-member squad was named early last month for the T20 World Cup and the now-cancelled series against New Zealand and England.
Fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain was also dropped on with top-order batter Haider Ali chosen after the latter starred during the National T20 Cup, emerging as the top run-scorer with 317 in eight matches.
The experienced Fakhar Zaman has swapped places with Khushdil Shah, who will now be a travelling reserve.
Azam, Khushdil and Hasnain had been off-colour at the National T20 Cup, which had assumed greater importance after New Zealand pulled out of their tour of Pakistan and England called of theirs and saw all the World Cup players take part.
New Zealand were due to play five Twenty20 Internationals while England were scheduled to play two.
“After reviewing player performances in the highly-competitive National T20 and in consultation with the team management, we have decided to include Haider Ali, Fakhar Zaman and Sarfaraz Ahmed in the squad for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021,” Wasim was quoted as saying in a news release.
“I am pleased with the intensity and high quality of cricket that we have witnessed in the National T20. It has not only provided the players with excellent match practice in the lead up to the UAE competition, it has also given us the opportunity to closely monitor player progress and make decisions that are in the best interest of the side for what will be a cut-throat tournament.
“The three in-form players bring with them wealth of experience and talent, and provide further stability, balance and strength.”
Wasim added that batter Sohaib Maqsood has been included in the squad subject to fitness and medical advice after he suffered a lower back disc problem.
The 34-year-old Sarfaraz, who was stripped of the captaincy in 2019, had been part of Pakistan’s squad over the last year as an understudy to wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan but had been ignored by Wasim for the World Cup.
Haider, who started his international career with a bang but flattered to deceive later on, was dropped from the initial squad after violating a bio-secure bubble in the Pakistan Super League in the UAE in June. The 21-year-old will now hope to capitalize on the chance given to him and fulfill his potential.
There, however, remain question marks on the form and fitness Mohammad Hafeez, who has retained his place in the squad despite not featuring in the National T20 Cup after testing positive for dengue.
Saqlain had been named interim head coach following the resignation of Misbah-ul-Haq last month for the series against New Zealand and England.
The abandonment of those series meant he will now he will make his coaching debut at the World Cup, where he will have Matthew Hayden and Vernon Philander as batting and bowling consultants respectively.
Former Australia opener Hayden and former South African all-rounder Philander had been handed those roles on Sept 13, when Ramiz was elected as the new PCB chief.
The squad and the team support personnel will undergo a six-day quarantine at a local hotel before flying off on Oct 15 to the United Arab Emirates for the World Cup, the main round of which begins Oct 23. Pakistan’s first match is against arch-rivals India on Oct 24.
Squad: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood.
Travelling reserves: Khushdil Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir.
Player Support Personnel: Mansoor Rana (manager), Saqlain Mushtaq (interim head coach), Shahid Aslam (assistant head coach), Matthew Hayden (batting consultant), Vernon Philander (bowling consultant), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Drikus Saaiman (strength and conditioning coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Talha Ejaz (team analyst), Col (retd) Muhammad Imran (Security Manager), Ibrahim Badees (media and digital manager), Dr Najeeb Soomro (team doctor) and Malang Ali (Masseur).
Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2021