LAHORE: Pakistan are highly likely to fly to India for the upcoming World Cup without pace sensation Naseem Shah, while fellow fast bowler Haris Rauf may make the cut when the team’s squad for the 50-over showpiece is announced on Friday.

Naseem picked up a shoulder injury during Pakistan’s Asia Cup Super Four match against India and Dawn has learnt that the 20-year-old’s medical reports have recommended him an extensive rest from cricket.

Haris, who complained of side strain also during the India clash, meanwhile, has regained full fitness and is set to be included in the Pakistan roster for the World Cup.

Zaman Khan, who made his One-day International debut in Pakistan’s Asia Cup Super Four match against Sri Lanka, is being touted as Naseem’s replacement.

Pakistan will go into the World Cup with a forgettable Asia Cup campaign, which saw the side — regarded as favourites to win the tournament — end up at the bottom of the Super Four standings after getting subjected to a 228-run drubbing by India and an agonising two-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka.

The absence Naseem and Haris’ — who walked out midway during the India fixture — was dearly felt by Pakistan, whose title chances, as it turned out, were heavily dependent on their star-studded pace attack, spearheaded by Shaheen Shah Afridi.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in a review of the team’s performance in the Asia Cup on Wednesday, concluded that Naseem and Haris’ injuries were a result of mismanaged workload, mainly due to the players featuring in franchise T20 leagues.

The PCB, currently being led by its interim Management Committee chief Zaka Ashraf, blamed the board’s “previous management” for allowing that to happen.

“Discussion revealed that the previous management had allowed a lot of players to play league cricket which caused them to fatigued ahead of their national duty,” Zaka was quoted as saying in a PCB statement on Thursday. “But going forward we have agreed to form a proactive approach to tackle players workload and give national duty a priority.”

The review meeting was attended by Pakistan captain Babar Azam and head coach Grant Bradburn in person. Vice-captain Shadab Khan, team director Mickey Arthur, bowling coach Morne Morkel and batting coach Andrew Puttick joined on video link.

Pakistan team doctor Sohail Saleem, who was rehired by the board earlier this year after being sacked two years ago, was also present along with former captains Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez — who constitute the PCB’s Cricket Technical Committee (CTC).

“In a robust analysis, every aspect of recent team performance, player fitness, and future plans came into discussion with a view to bringing improvement to the side,” said the PCB statement. “There was an agreement on making a better approach and strategy on players’ workload.

“The importance of strengthening the bench was also emphasised.”

Pakistan chief selector Inzamam ul Haq, who the PCB said couldn’t make into the meeting due to a “medical emergency”, met Zaka on Thursday afternoon to share his input.

“After the completion of the review, Inzamam has finalised the Pakistan squad for the ICC World Cup, which will be announced on Friday morning in a press conference,” said the board’s press release.

HAFEEZ RESIGNS

Hours after Inzamam’s meeting with Zaka, Hafeez announced his resignation from the CTC, which was formed in July. Hafeez, along with Misbah, had been appointed as the members of the committee on honorary basis and were assigned to advise Zaka on cricketing affairs.

The committee played a crucial role in restoring the departmental and regional domestic cricket structure according to the PCB’s 2014 constitution, which was brought back following the revoking of the 2019 charter earlier this year.

“I decided to quit from the Pakistan cricket technical committee,” Hafeez wrote on X on Thursday night. “I served as an honorary member. I would like to thank Zaka Ashraf for giving me this opportunity.

“My best wishes for Pakistan cricket as always. Pakistan Zindabad.”

Published in Dawn, September 22th, 2023

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