COLOMBO: Pakistan made as many as five changes to their playing eleven for the do-or-die Asia Cup Super Four clash against Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Thursday.
Fast bowler Naseem Shah, who was ruled out of the Asia Cup with a shoulder injury, was replaced by pacer Zaman Khan for the Sri Lanka match, the team said on Wednesday.
“Naseem injured his right shoulder during the match against India,” the Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement.
“He continues to be monitored by the team’s medical panel, that is taking all necessary precautions — keeping in mind the ICC World Cup.”
The 22-year-old pacer Zaman is yet to play ODI cricket. The right-armer flew in from Pakistan — along with fellow pacer Shahnawaz Dahani after first-choice fast bowlers Naseem and Haris Rauf picked up the injuries during the Super Four game against India — and is already a popular name in national cricket after his heroics in this year’s Pakistan Super League for champions Lahore Qalandars.
“I’m excited just to work with him [Zaman], connect with them and build that relationship and help him develop, because he’s a match winner,” Pakistan bowling coach Morne Morkel in a media talk said of the quick who won defended 13 runs of his last over to star in Lahore’s PSL title defence this season.
India have already made the Sept 17 final after they beat Sri Lanka in Colombo on Tuesday and will face the winners of the match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Naseem and Haris are of huge importance to Pakistan who would desperately want both of them to be fit for the all-important global event.
“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 PCB quoted team doctor Sohail Saleem as saying.
Fast bowler Mohammad Wasim Junior, who played his last ODI against Afghanistan in Sri Lanka during August, came in for Haris while slow left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz replaced fast bowling all-rounder Faheem Ashraf who has not impressed in his recent ODI outings, means Pakistan will be entering the field with a three-pronged pace attack alongside two spinners — leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan, who has struggled with both bat and ball in the Asia Cup, and Nawaz.
A major change in the top order is the axing of out-of-form opener Fakhar Zaman who was replaced by young wicket-keeper/batter Mohammad Haris who has accumulated 27 runs in four ODI innings of his short career. Left-handed Fakhar managed to collect just 186 in his last nine ODI innings, including 61 in the three matches of the ongoing Asia Cup.
The 22-year-old Haris showed glimpses of a belligerent batting display in the top-order during the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia.
Out-of-sorts all-rounder Salman Ali Agha, who was hit on the face during batting in the Super Four match against India, has been replaced by middle-order batter Saud Shakeel.
Possessing an impressive record in a short seven-Test career, southpaw Saud has represented Pakistan in six ODIs so far.
Meanwhile, Morkel said injuries to the premier pacers are a big blow ahead of the must-win Asia Cup match but a “fantastic opportunity” for up-and-coming talent.
“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 told reporters at the pre-match media talk in Colombo.
“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.”
Left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi leads the Pakistan pace attack that rattled India in the Asia Cup group match in Colombo, which was washed out after just one inning.
But Shaheen 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 has been good learning for Pakistan ahead of the 50-over showpiece event where they will meet the arch-rivals on Oct 14.
“Those are fantastic learnings for us,” said Morkel, who rated Shaheen 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.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2023