ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s head coach for the side’s upcoming five-match Twenty20 International series against New Zealand Azhar Mahmood will join the team’s camp on Monday.

Former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar, who is based out of London, is set to arrive in Rawalpindi just ahead of the national side’s first practice session three days before the first T20 at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, an official of the country’s cricket board told Dawn.

Azhar was appointed as head coach solely for the series as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) searches for foreign coaches to serve in separate red-ball and white-ball roles in the long-term.

Pakistan have been boosted by the return of veteran pacer Mohammad Amir and seasoned all-rounder Imad Wasim, both rescinding their retirements ahead of the series following talks with the PCB.

The board had also successfully convinced Pakistan-born United Arab Emirates batter Usman Khan to give up his potential opportunity of playing for the middle eastern country after his blistering show with the bat in the Pakistan Super League last month and had included him in the squad.

Babar Azam will return as the Pakistan captain after a being reappointed in the position at the expense of pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was stripped off the role only after five matches in charge – a 4-1 defeat against the BlackCaps away from home.

While Pakistan go into the series with a full-strength squad, New Zealand, who arrived here late on Saturday night, have been depleted by the absence of as many as 10 first-choice players, most of whom are participating in the ongoing Indian Premier League.

The Kiwis, captained by all-rounder Michael Bracewell, will hold their first practice session on Tuesday, after a day’s rest.

Tom Blundell and uncapped all rounder Zak Foulkes were added as late ups to the Kiwis squad after Finn Allen and senior pacer Adam Milne were injured on the eve of their departure.

Rawalpindi will host the first three matches of the series before action shifts to Lahore, before it culminated with the last T20 on April 21. The series marks the start of Pakistan’s build-up to the T20 World Cup, which is set to be held in the United States and the West Indies in June.

New Zealand are visiting Pakistan for the third time in the last 17 months.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2024

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