By Umar Farooq, ESPNcricinfo,
Veterans Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Amir have been left out of Pakistan’s limited-overs squad of 22 for the home series against Zimbabwe next month. Shadab Khan was appointed Pakistan’s vice-captain in both limited-overs formats, while Abdullah Shafique, the uncapped 20-year old, top order batsman has found a place following strong performances for Central Punjab in the recently-concluded National T20 Cup.
Shafique, who hails from Sialkot, made a stunning century on T20 debut to help Central Punjab pull off a remarkable chase of 201. He finished the tournament with 358 runs in 10 innings, striking them at 133 with an average of 44.75. These include two half-centuries and a century. Shafique has also made a century in his only first-class appearance so far, making him the first Pakistani and second in cricket history to manage debut hundreds at both the first-class and T20 cricket.
Although the squad has been named for the full tour, the team management and the Pakistan selectors will pick a squad for the ODIs and T20Is from this pool at a later date. A big pool has been picked to ensure all players can comply with strict covid-19 protocols in a bio-secure bubble that will be in place for the full series.
“The philosophy and throughout process behind the selection is that we don’t want excessive experiments in ODIs and would rather play to our strengths,” Misbah said before naming the list of probables. “Going forward, we know how important every single ODI game will be in terms of qualification for the ICC event. We want to win every game regardless of opponent as we know Zimbabwe didn’t play much in the recent past and we don’t know what to expect. So we have to be watchful against them. Our intention will be to regain our winning momentum from when we last played against Sri Lanka a year ago.
“In T20I squad, it’s a bit different as we want to give young boys an extended run so that they can show what they are capable of at the highest level and cement their places for future assignments. We all saw some outstanding individual performances in the National T20 Cup but not everyone got a chance and must be disappointed. But they have a chance for the New Zealand tour to get into the “A” team. I want to reassure them that they will remain in consideration for the New Zealand tour and next year’s home series. All they now need to do is to carry those impressive run of forms into the upcoming domestic competitions.”
The axing of notable names – Malik, Amir and Sarfraz – meant Pakistan are compelled to dig deep into their reserves in search of younger players. The senior trio lost Misbah’s faith after their fading form. Amir was wicketless on the England tour and had a lacklustre stint in the National T20 cup with six wickets at 38.83. ESPNcricinfo understands the Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to move on from veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik, while Sarfaraz was dropped from every squad last year after he lost the captaincy, and only returned to the side for the England tour when Pakistan travelled with a larger group of players. He was left out once more, allowing the youngster Rohail Nazir to be integrated into the squad, behind their first-choice wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan.
“Seniors like Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Amir are the notable absentees in this squad and that is mainly because we want to give youngsters a chance. Having all of them in the squad makes it tough to play youngsters, and their absence will provide players like Abdullah Shafique, Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah better chances of featuring in the upcoming matches. Dropping Sarfraz is meant to give him a chance to play first-class cricket, because on form Mohammad Rizwan is the first-choice wicketkeeper. With an eye on future and as part of our succession planning, Rohail Nazir has been chosen as Rizwan’s back-up wicketkeeper. Instead of Sarfaraz sitting on the substitute bench, it makes sense that he plays in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy so that he retains his fitness and rediscovers form for the tour for the longer and more demanding tour of New Zealand.”
Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan will begin when their 32-man squad arrives in Islamabad tomorrow. They will then undergo an isolation period from October 21 to 27 before they can start training at the Pindi Cricket Stadium from October 28. Rawalpindi will be hosting the ODI series, scheduled for October 30, November 1 and 3 while both teams will travel to Lahore for the T20 series – set for November 7, 8 and 10.
Full squad: Babar Azam, Haider Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Imam ul Haq, Harris Sohail, Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim, Rohail Nazir, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Rauf, Musa Khan, Wahab Riaz, Usman Qadar, Zafar Gohar.
Main photo: Mohammad Amir has been left out of Pakistan’s limited-overs squad against Zimbabwe (Getty Images)