LAHORE, Dec 10: Uncapped spinner Zulfiqar Babar couldn’t have hoped for a better 34th birthday present on Monday when he was picked in Pakistan’s both limited-overs squads for the upcoming tour of India, while former captain Shahid Afridi was only retained for the two Twenty20 Internationals.
The national selection committee, headed by ex-Test spinner Iqbal Qasim, also recalled experienced batsman Younis Khan and fast bowler Umar Gul in one of six changes from the One-day International squad that played against Australia in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Aug/Sept.
Apart from Afridi, a veteran of 349 ODIs, the players axed for the one-day squad that went to the UAE are left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman (since then banned), pacemen Aizaz Cheema, Sohail Tanvir and all-rounder Shoaib Malik. However, both Sohail and Malik, like Afridi, are named only for the Twenty20 matches against India.
The selectors, however, dropped enigmatic opener Imran Nazir and veteran all-rounder Abdul Razzaq from both formats after the duo figured at the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka where Pakistan lost to the hosts in the semi-finals.
Also axed from Pakistan’s World Twenty20 squad are Yasir Arafat, Asad Shafiq and Raza Hasan. Both Asad and Raza missed out because of injuries.
Left-arm spinner Zulfiqar, who captured 62 wickets in just nine matches during the President Trophy first class competition, and paceman Asad Ali who was the leading wicket-taker in the National Twenty20 have been included for the first time in the Twenty20 squad which will be led by Mohammad Hafeez who skippered Lahore Lions to national title here on Sunday.
Zulfiqar, who grabbed 96 wickets in the 2009-10 first-class season, said it was a dream come true. “It is a dream come true for me,” Zulfiqar said. “This is the biggest day in my life as I have always dreamt of playing for Pakistan and I will do my best in India.”
Iqbal, while announcing the squads during a press conference, said everyone concerned was taken on board before two separate teams were finalised.
“The national selection committee, after having discussions with coaches, and captains finalised the two teams with consensus and hopefully it will deliver in India, who no doubt are not in good morale after facing defeats in the back-to-back Test matches against England at home,” Iqbal said.
Commenting on the axing of Razzaq and confinement of Afridi to just T20 squad, the chief selector said their exclusion was a difficult decision for the selectors.
“No doubt Razzaq and Afridi are both seasoned players and have won many matches for Pakistan, but we preferred Asad Ali over Razzaq and confined the role of Afridi to T20. Though these two decisions were difficult for us but these were taken keeping in view that we need to raise team for the future,” he remarked.
The chief selector said the selectors considered the performances of all individuals during the President’s Trophy and the T20 Cup.
“It is not the end of any player career because shortly the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy will start in the country and everyone will get a chance to bounce back by showing good performances,” Iqbal said.
The selectors rewarded Ahmed Shehzad with a place in the Twenty20 side after the temperamental opening batsman amassed 391 runs in the just-ended national event. Lanky left-arm paceman Mohammad Irfan, who is yet to play in the shortest form of the game despite playing two one-dayers on the tour of England in 2010, also found a spot in the 15-man Twenty20 squad along with batsman Umar Amin who played in four Tests on the same tour.
Haris Sohail, the 23-year-old uncapped left-handed batsman who toured Sri Lanka with the national side for the Twentty20 leg in June this year, has been named in the 15-man ODI squad that will be captained by Misbah-ul-Haq.
Left-arm paceman Wahab Riaz was also included in the one-day side after being overlooked for the Australia series in the UAE and the World Twenty20.
However, they overlooked leg-spinner Kashif Siddique who picked 11 wickets — one more than Zulfiqar for Multan Tigers — while guiding debutants Bahawalpur Stags to the semi-finals of the National Twenty20 Cup.
The team will leave for Delhi on Dec 22 and face India in the first Twenty20 International in Bangalore on Dec 25. The second game is scheduled for Ahmedabad two days later.
The three one-dayers are slated to be played in Chennai (Dec 30), Kolkata (Jan 3) and Delhi (Jan 6).
Squads: Twenty20: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Asad Ali, Zulfiqar Babar, Ahmed Shehzad. One-day: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Nasir Jamshed, Haris Sohail, Kamran Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Zulfiqar Babar, Imran Farhat, Umar Akmal, Anwar Ali.