PCB announces 17-man squad for New Zealand T20I series

Published April 9, 2024
The men’s cricket team selection committee’s hold a press conference at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. — Photo courtesy PCB
The men’s cricket team selection committee’s hold a press conference at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium. — Photo courtesy PCB

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Tuesday announced the 17-member squad for the upcoming T20I series against New Zealand.

The five-match series will be played in Rawalpindi and Lahore from April 18-27.

In a press release, the cricket board stated that uncapped middle-order batsmen Muhammad Irfan Khan and opener Usman Khan had “earned the selectors’ nod” following their impressive performances in the most recent edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

Also included in the squad were wrist spinner Abrar Ahmed, all-rounder Imad Wasim and fast bowler Mohammad Amir.

Imad and Amir had both recently decided to take back their retirement from international cricket last month and were also part of the training camp organised by the army in Kakul.

Hard-hitting batter Usman Khan, who was banned from Emirati cricket for five years earlier this month, was also included in the squad. Babar Azam will be leading the squad after replacing Shaheen Shah Afridi, also included in the team, as the T20I captain.

Selection committee member and senior team manager Wahab Riaz said that the decision to include Imad and Amir “was a straightforward one, given their availability for selection and considering Haris Rauf’s injury and Mohammad Nawaz’s current form”.

“Both Amir and Imad possess undeniable match-winning capabilities, and we trust they will consistently deliver strong performances to bolster the team’s objectives,” Riaz was quoted as saying by the PCB.

Mohammad Yousuf, selection committee member and batting coach, meanwhile, congratulated Irfan and Usman on their selection, adding that they had “undeniably earned their spots through a string of consistent, outstanding performances”.

Yousuf also said that that they were optimistic about the players and their potential to become “key impact players”, adding that he trusted that they will their “upward trajectory, sparing no effort in proving themselves worthy of the selectors’ and captain’s trust and confidence”.

The PCB quoted Irfan as saying that he was “deeply honoured” to have been selected.

“Breaking into such a formidable team like Pakistan is a testament to the dedication and effort I have put into my game. Now, my focus is on seizing this opportunity and solidifying my position within the team,” he asserted.

“I am fully committed to continuing to work diligently and proving myself worthy of the trust placed in me by the captain and selectors,” he said.

Usman also expressed gratitude at being chosen in the squad.

“This selection validates the relentless effort and dedication I have poured into my craft, and I am fully committed to upholding the high standards I have set for myself,” he said.

The selection team also held a press conference in Lahore where they were asked about the inclusion of Azam Khan and his fitness. Bilal Afzal, another member of the selection committee, highlighted Azam’s performance statistics, and the strategies devised by the coach and captain.

Afzal asserted that the committee thought to give Azam a “big fair chance”, expressing the hope that his confidence would build up in the run up to the T20 World Cup.

Asked whether Babar’s captaincy was limited to the end of the New Zealand series, Wahab noted that the batsman was the white-ball captain. He further said that discussions were ongoing on deciding the vice captain.

“We want somebody to stand by Babar, and for that, we are looking at everything that is in the team’s benefit,” the senior team manager said.

Responding to another question, he said, “When announcing the captain for the World Cup, we wanted him to be a very experienced player who has been in captaincy so there was no better choice than Babar.”

Calling Babar “one of the best players in the team and most experienced player”, Wahab acknowledged that he had not won any major tournament yet but there was “always room for improvement”.

He also justified the selection of Usman. “Usman has been scoring runs for the last two-three years so he deserved selection and if there are any other issues Pakistan Cricket Board will be dealing with them,” he said.

Team

Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohmmad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usama Mir, Usman Khan, Zaman Khan.

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