The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Monday announced a 15-member squad for a three-match T20 series against Afghanistan with all-rounder Shadab Khan picked to lead the side in the absence of full-time skipper Babar Azam, who has been rested.

PCB Managing Committee head Najam Sethi and Chief Selector Haroon Rashid made the announcement, saying that the squad was finalised keeping in view the team’s future plans.

Squad

  • Shadab Khan (captain)
  • Abdullah Shafique
  • Azam Khan
  • Faheem Ashraf
  • Iftikhar Ahmed
  • Ihsanullah
  • Imad Wasim
  • Mohammad Haris
  • Mohammad Nawaz
  • Mohammad Wasim Junior
  • Naseem Shah
  • Saim Ayub
  • Shan Masood
  • Tayyab Tahir
  • Zaman Khan

The three-match series will be played between March 24 and 27 in Sharjah.

Afghanistan have played Pakistan in three T20 Internationals and four ODIs in multi-national events — without any win so far — but this will be the first bilateral series between the two countries.

The newly-announced squad has four uncapped players, namely, Ihsanullah, Ayub, Tahir and Zaman.

According to the PCB statement, skipper Babar Azam, along with Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi have been rested. Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Mohammad Hasnain and Khushdil Shah also couldn’t make it to the final squad during the selection process.

It is pertinent to mention here that the aforementioned nine players were part of the Pakistan squad that qualified for the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 against England in Australia last year.

Meanwhile, Sethi congratulated Shadab on his new role.

“Shadab Khan has been the Pakistan vice-captain in white-ball cricket for the past couple of years and it is logical that he takes over the side in the absence of Babar Azam for the short three-match T20I tour of Sharjah,” said the PCB high-up.

He also confirmed to journalists that former great Mohammad Yousuf had been retained as batting coach “to ensure continuity” in the upcoming series.

Explaining the rationale behind the new picks, Haroon Rashid said the board followed the standard rotation policy by resting the leading performers and providing high-performing domestic performers with opportunities to demonstrate their talent and potential at the international level.

“This will also allow us to test the temperament and abilities of these players and help us strengthen our pool of players as we look forward to building and preparing a formidable side for next year’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States,” he told a press briefing.

He insisted that the selection committee ensured that it selected a side that was equally strong and capable of winning the series against a strong Afghanistan side.

He said seven players had been retained from the last series to make the squad balanced.

The chief selector said Babar, Fakhar, Haris, Rizwan, and Shaheen had been “provided breaks” from the short Sharjah series to let them complete their rehabilitation.

“This will help them regroup, recompose and recharge their batteries and be fully fit for the challenges in the tough and challenging 2023-24 season,” Rashid noted.

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