Pakistan bowling coach Morne Morkel on Wednesday said injuries to their premier quicks were a big blow ahead of a must-win Asia Cup match but a “fantastic opportunity” for up-and-coming talent.
Naseem Shah was ruled out of the team’s final Super Four match — effective semi-final — against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Thursday.
Pakistan Super League star Zaman Khan came in as a replacement and walked directly into the team, which was announced on the eve of the key match.
Shah and fellow quick Haris Rauf were injured in the team’s previous Super Four clash of the 50-over tournament, a prelude to the upcoming one-day international (ODI) World Cup.
“A big blow, picking up those little niggles, but in this same sort of thing what a fantastic opportunity for the guys coming in,” Morkel, a former South Africa fast bowler, told reporters.
“After going down against India, it’s a must-win game for us come tomorrow and I’m quite excited to see the new guys stepping in, to see their character, to see how they respond.”
Khan, 22, flew in from Pakistan and is already a popular name in national cricket after his heroics in this year’s PSL for champions Lahore Qalandars.
“I’m excited just to work with him, connect with him and build that relationship and help him develop because he’s a match winner,” Morkel said of the quick who defended 13 runs off his last over to star in Lahore’s title defence this season.
Shaheen Shah Afridi leads the pace attack that rattled India in the Asia Cup group match, which was washed out after just one innings.
But Afridi and company took a hammering in their last meeting with India, who posted 356-2 in a match played across two days due to rain.
Morkel said the 228-run loss to India was a good learning experience ahead of the 50-over showpiece event where they will meet their arch-rivals on October 14.
“Those are fantastic learnings for us,” said Morkel, who rated Afridi as “world-class”.
“The more tough situations we can face leading into the World Cup, that’s brilliant. You know, we’re gonna grow from this and then come back stronger.”
Critics have pointed at Pakistan’s lack of quality spinners, a major drawback on turning Sri Lankan wickets, but Morkel insists the slow bowlers remain ready to perform.
Pakistan made five changes to their team that lost to India with Mohammad Haris, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim and Khan coming in.
Earlier in the day, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced that Khan replaced Shah for the remainder of the Asia Cup 2023 for medical reasons.
A PCB press release said Shah had injured his right shoulder in this week’s match against India and continued to be monitored by the Pakistan team’s medical panel that was taking all necessary precautions keeping in mind the upcoming World Cup.
It added that Khan joined the team today and would train with the squad in the evening at the R Premadasa Stadium.
Providing an update on Rauf who did not bowl on the reserve day of the match against India as a precautionary measure, the PCB said he “continues to recover well” after he felt discomfort in his right flank on the match’s first day.
“These two fast bowlers are our assets and the team’s medical panel will provide them the best possible care ahead of the all-important World Cup,” the press release quoted the team’s doctor Sohail Saleem as saying.
Pakistan XI: Mohammad Haris, Imamul Haq, Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (wkt), Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan (vice-capt), Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Wasim, Zaman Khan