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Shadab Khan will lead Pakistan against Afghanistan in UAE

LAHORE: With one eye on the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 and the other on ensuring the careers of their elite cricketers are extended by strategically managing their workloads, the Pakistan cricket selectors today named a new-look and highly-talented 15-player squad for the three-match T20I series against Afghanistan, which will be played from 24 to 27 March in Sharjah.

All-rounder Shadab Khan will captain the side that includes four uncapped players, namely, Ihsanullah, Saim Ayub, Tayyab Tahir and Zaman Khan, while Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim have been recalled.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, along with Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi have been rested, while Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Mohammad Hasnain and Khushdil Shah have been dropped. These nine players were part of the Pakistan squad that reached the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia.

Apart from the Shadab, players retained from the last T20I series are: Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah and Shan Masood.

Pakistan squad

  Shadab Khan (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan.

Reserve players – Abrar Ahmed, Haseebullah and Usama Mir.

Chair of PCB Management Committee, Najam Sethi:

“I want to congratulate Shadab Khan on his appointment as the Pakistan team captain for the series against Afghanistan. Shadab Khan has been the Pakistan vice-captain in white-ball cricket for the past couple of years and it is logical that he takes over the side in the absence of Babar Azam for the short three-match T20I tour of Sharjah.

“For the short Sharjah tour and to ensure continuity, we have also appointed Mohammad Yousuf as the interim head and batting coach. Yousuf has been with the national side since last year as a batting coach and has also been working in the National High Performance Centre.”

Chair of the selection committee, Haroon Rashid:

“For the short three-T20I series against Afghanistan, the selection committee has followed the standard rotation policy by resting the leading performers and providing high-performing domestic performers with opportunities to demonstrate their talent and potential at the international level. This will also allow us to test the temperament and abilities of these players and helping us to strengthen our pool of players as we look forward to building and preparing a formidable side for next year’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and United States.

“However, and in doing so, we have ensured that we select a side that is equally strong and capable of winning the series against a strong Afghanistan side for whom Sharjah is like a second home. And to achieve that, we have retained seven players from the last series, recalled four experienced cricketers and clubbed them with four uncapped players to make the 15-member side a truly mixture of youth and experience.

“In this background, I want to congratulate Ihsanullah, Saim Ayub, Tayyab Tahir and Zaman Khan who have broken into the national side after a series of strong performances in the domestic circuit as well as the HBL PSL 8. Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim have been recalled after they too demonstrated in the HBL PSL 8 that they are capable of exceling in the shortest format and also providing experience and stability in the side.

“Babar, Fakhar, Haris, Rizwan and Shaheen have been provided breaks from the short Sharjah trip to allow them to switch-off from competitive cricket so that they can complete their rehabilitations, regroup, recompose and recharge their batteries and be fully fit for the challenges in the tough and challenging 2023-24 season.”

About the uncapped and recalled players:

In the HBL PSL 8, Azam has scored 280 runs in nine match at a strike-rate of almost 163, Saim Ayub has scored 309 runs in 10 matches at a strike-rate of 167, Tayyab Tahir has scored 137 runs in five matches at a strike-rate of 144 after aggregating 413 runs in 11 National T20 matches at a strike-rate of 138, whereas Ihsanullah has picked up 20 wickets in 10 matches at an economy-rate of 7.36 and Zaman Khan has claimed 12 wickets in 10 matches at an economy-rate of 8.68.

Abdullah Shafique has scored 193 runs in seven HBL PSL 8 matches at a strike-rate of 144, Faheem Ashraf has scored 210 runs and taken seven wickets, while Imad has scored 404 runs (strike-rate of 170) and taken nine wickets (economy-rate of 7.93).

Player workload management:

In the past 15 months, Babar and Rizwan have practically been on the road, while Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf and Shaheen Shah Afridi have battled injuries.

Babar has played 10 Tests, 12 ODIs, 26 T20Is and 19 HBL PSL matches, while Rizwan has featured in eight Tests, 11 ODIs, 25 T20Is and 22 HBL PSL matches besides a few matches in the Bangladesh Premier League. Haris Rauf has appeared in one Test, 10 ODIs, 23 T20Is and 23 HBL PSL matches. 

Fakhar Zaman and Shaheen Shah Afridi have demonstrated excellent recoveries from the knee injuries by playing in 10 and nine HBL PSL 8 matches, respectively.

However, both star players need more time to complete their rehabilitations to regain complete match fitness. Fakhar suffered knees injuries prior and during the T20 World Cup, while Shaheen was sidelined for three months in July after picking up a knee injury in the first Galle Test. Although Shaheen returned for the T20 World Cup, he missed the home series against England and New Zealand in December 2022 and January 2023.

Pakistan is scheduled to feature in eight ODIs in a lead up to the 50-over Asia Cup 2023 and the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, will play in seven ICC World Test Championship matches and appear in 25 T20Is in the build up to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 over the next 15 months.

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