PCB names Shadab Khan captain for 15-player side in series against Afghanistan slated to take place in Sharjah
Ahead of the announcement of the squad for its T20 series with Afghanistan, Pakistan Cricket Board Management Committee Chairperson Najam Sethi said Monday that an opportunity will be given to young players who had performed in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
He announced that white-ball team vice-captain Shadab Khan will lead the 15-player side.
“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,” the PCB management committee chief said addressing a presser, flanked by PCB Selection Committee chairperson Haroon Rashid, in Lahore.
All-rounder Shadab Khan will captain the side which comprises four uncapped players, including Ihsanullah, Saim Ayub, Tayyab Tahir and Zaman Khan, while Azam Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim have been recalled to the team.
Selectors, according to Sethi, have rested Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi keeping their workloads and future series in mind.
“In the past 15 months, Babar and Rizwan have practically been on the road, while Fakhar, Haris and Shaheen have battled injuries,” the PCB’s statement read.
According to the board, Babar played 10 Tests, 12 ODIs, 26 T20Is and 19 PSL matches, while Rizwan featured in eight Tests, 11 ODIs, 25 T20Is and 22 PSL matches besides a few matches in the Bangladesh Premier Lague. Haris has appeared in one Test, 10 ODIs, 23 T20Is and 23 PSL matches, the PCB said.
Meanwhile, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Mohammad Hasnain and Khushdil Shah have been dropped from the squad for the series which will be played from March 24 to 27 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Sethi added that for the short Sharjah tour and to ensure continuity, the board has 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.”
Apart from the Shadab, the players retained from the last T20I series include Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah and Shan Masood.
Speaking about the selection of the team for the upcoming series with Afghanistan, Rashid said: “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.”
He added that this will also allow the board to test the temperament and abilities of these players and help strengthen its pool of players as it looks 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,” he said adding that the team is truly a “mixture of youth and experience”.
Commenting on sitting the team star players out of this series, Rashid said: “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.”
He congratulated the PSL players who have broken into the national side after a series of strong performances in the domestic circuit. Rashid said that those who have been recalled demonstrated their capability of exceling in the shortest format and provide experience and stability in the side.
Regarding the uncapped and recalled players, the PCB stated that Azam scored 280 runs in nine matches at a strike-rate of almost 163; Saim Ayub scored 309 runs in 10 matches at a strike-rate of 167, Tayyab Tahir 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 picked up 20 wickets in 10 matches at an economy-rate of 7.36 and Zaman Khan claimed 12 wickets in 10 matches at an economy-rate of 8.68.
Meanwhile, Abdullah Shafique scored 193 runs in seven PSL matches at a strike-rate of 144, Faheem Ashraf scored 210 runs and took seven wickets, while Imad scored 404 runs at strike-rate of 170 bagging nine wickets at an economy-rate of 7.93.
Commenting on Fakhar and Shaheen’s injuries, the statement mentioned that the two players have demonstrated excellent recoveries from the knee injuries by playing in 10 and nine PSL 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,” the statement read.
Pakistan squad:Shadab Khan (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah , Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan.
Reserve players: Abrar Ahmed, Haseebullah, and Usama Mir.