LAHORE: Pakistan named uncapped bowlers Rumman Raees and Mohammad Nawaz in their squad for the World Twenty20 in India while leaving out experienced paceman Umar Gul, the second highest wicket-taker in the shortest format.
Left-arm fast bowler Raees and all-rounder Nawaz were rewarded for their strong domestic form and the same 15-man squad will play in the February 24-March 6 Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
Only skipper Shahid Afridi (91) has taken more wickets than Gul (85) in Twenty20 Internationals but the 31-year-old pacer, who was part of the Twenty20 squad that lost 2-1 in New Zealand last month, has been struggling for form as well as fitness in recent times.
“The T20 team has been selected keeping in mind the conditions during Asia cup and World T20 and the recent performances of some players in domestic and A Team tours,” chief selector Haroon Rashid said in a statement.
“The team is a fine blend of experience and youth and the selectors believe that team will do well in both tournaments.”
Opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad was also dropped from the squad with his place going to Khurram Manzoor, who has played 16 Tests and seven One-day Internationals but is yet to make his debut in Twenty20 international.
Batsmen Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed are the other players in the Afridi-led squad who have played one-dayers for Pakistan but are yet to represent them in the shortest format.
Towering left-arm paceman Mohammad Irfan, who was rested for the Twenty20 series in New Zealand, also returned to the squad for the March 8-April 3 tournament.
Pakistan was supposed to announce their squad by February 8 but delayed doing so because the selectors were unsure about the opening slot. Shehzad’s poor recent form meant his exclusion was inevitable, but the main debate centered around Manzoor. There are reports that coach Waqar Younis has serious concerns over Manzoor’s selection, and that the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan has been unhappy with the chief selector Haroon Rasheed and has sounded out at least one former cricketer to take his place.
The other contenders for the opening slot were Sharjeel Khan and Kamran Akmal but the selectors, after the input of captain Shahid Afridi, preferred Manzoor.
Manzoor, who has played 16 Test matches and seven ODIs, has not played for Pakistan in any format since August 2014. His last selection to Pakistan’s limited-overs teams came more than six years ago, in 2009 against Sri Lanka. He scored 309 runs at 28.09 in the domestic T20 competition last year and was not selected by any of the five teams in the ongoing Pakistan Super League.
Pakistan’s bowling unit includes Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Anwar Ali while Gul, who failed to impress the selectors on his latest comeback from injury, has been dropped. The selectors, however, brought back Mohammad Irfan, whose inclusion gives the attack a more threatening look. Backing them up is the 24-year-old Raees, who has been among the most economical bowlers in the PSL so far.
Pakistan didn’t name a specialist spinner but banked on all-rounders Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim and new face Mohammad Nawaz - a left-arm spinner and a full-time batsman.
Nawaz, who picked up 10 wickets in the Under-19 World Cup in 2012 in Australia, has been a standout player with both bat and ball in the PSL, where he is currently the top wicket-taker.
Pakistan squad: Shahid Afridi (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Khurram Manzoor, Rumman Raees.