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September 22, 2019

Misbah rings the changes for SL series


September 22, 2019

KARACHI: Misbah-ul-Haq’s rebuilding process has begun. On Saturday, Pakistan’s head coach and chief selector announced his first squad – a 16-man line-up for the upcoming three-match One-day International series against Sri Lanka in Karachi.

Misbah has opted to make a number of changes in the squad that failed to secure Pakistan a place at this summer’s ICC World Cup in England.

Batsman Iftikhar Ahmed returns after a four-year hiatus, wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan is back, so are spin-bowling all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz and batsman Abid Ali. There was no place for former Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez, who is currently playing for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the Caribbean Premier League.

Fast bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali are forced absentees from the squad. Shaheen is out with dengue, while Hasan has been suffering from back spasms.

Iftikhar, who made the last of his three ODI appearances in November 2015, returns on the back of impressive displays in the Pakistan Cup 50-overs tournament, where he made back-to-back hundreds for Punjab. Nawaz made a pair of half-centuries in the same tournament, playing for Federal Areas.

Misbah explained that Iftikhar’s List A batting record, and his ability to bowl a bit of offspin, made him an enticing pick in the post-Hafeez/Malik era.

“Iftikhar has a 51 [51.65] average in List A, he has been a top performer in the last three to four seasons,” Misbah said. “He is, I think, our fifth bowler, and you can utilise him, his fitness is excellent. He is a mature player, he is a three-dimensional player, fielding-wise good, he can do bowling, he can bat, he has 91 strike rate and 51 average and that’s the reason we have brought him [into the squad]. Previously he was not coming into the team became of Hafeez and Shoaib, now he is in the team and he can bowl offspin too.”

Rizwan, meanwhile, was left out of the World Cup squad despite scoring two hundreds against Australia in an ODI series leading up to the tournament, when captain and regular keeper Sarfraz Ahmed had been rested. He is now back, and possibly not just as back-up to Sarfraz, with Misbah making a special mention of his batting skills.

“Sarfraz and Rizwan’s roles are different,” he said. “If someone has scored two hundreds at No. 4, you have a chance. You have the added advantage of having two wicketkeepers, fitness-wise he is very good, and he will be in the loop. We are trying to encourage such players and we will try to give them matches whenever we have a chance.”

Responding to a question on Sarfraz’s own form as batsman, and his place in the side, Misbah said: “Future is known to almighty only. Let’s give him a chance. Sarfraz has worked a lot on his fitness. The biggest mistake was that Sarfraz didn’t give himself a chance to prove [himself] as a batsman. If he gives 100% chance to himself, he is a player who can give you performances. Sarfraz should not underestimate himself as a batsman.”

Hafeez and Malik, Misbah said, were going to remain in contention for the T20I squad in the lead up to next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

“Here we had a chance, one or two players [who] were not getting a chance, we should utilise [them],” he said. “Obviously we have a lot of opportunities before the World Cup, we have to go to Australia, we have to make a balanced team, and whosoever is effective we should consider the players.

“Shoaib and Hafeez have performed well in the last ten T20s and we can’t ignore them, but this is the opportunity for other players to show their skills.”

Three ODI will be played in Karachi, the first on September 27. Another three Twenty20 matches will be played in Lahore in early October.

Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Hasnain, Iftikhar Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz.