Pakistan have made three changes to their initial World Cup squad with batsman Asif Ali joining seamers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz into the 15-man squad. Abid Ali, Junaid Khan and Faheem Ashraf have made way for the trio to come in. Teams have the option to revise their provisional World Cup squads before May 23 but Pakistan have wasted little time to make the alterations following a 0-4 ODI series loss to England.
Yasir Shah is the fourth player to be released from the side after he was named as Shadab Khan’s replacement for the series against England.
Wahab’s return to the Pakistan squad comes as the biggest surprise. His last outing in the 50-over format came two years ago in the Champions Trophy. Last year, he wasn’t even in the 25 man probables squad for tour of England and Ireland. Coach Mickey Arthur came down heavily on the left-arm seamer while telling ESPNCricinfo, “I cannot fault Wahab when he has a ball in his hand but his work ethic around training is something needs to be looked at,” Arthur said.
“I am changing the culture in this Pakistan environment and I am not interested in players doing just the bare minimum. I want players winning us games of cricket and pushing themselves to be the best they can be. This is a high-performance environment, not a environment where mediocrity is accepted. Unless you are winning games consistently, you are under pressure for your position,” he went on to add.
Amir, who is in England has fully recovered from chicken pox, and Wahab is expected to join the squad in Bristol on May 22. Both the players will most likely be part of the lineup for the warm-up matches on May 24 and May 26 before Pakistan launches their World Cup campaign against the Windies on May 31 at Trent Bridge.
Inzamam-ul-Haq, chairman of selectors, said the decision to make the changes was taken following the England series. All four matches had 300-plus totals leaving the impression that it would be a batsman friendly World Cup. “Junaid and Faheem had been originally preferred over a few other bowlers based on their recent performances and the investment we had made on them since 2017. They had the opportunity to cement their Word Cup spots, but they were well below-par in the series against England even though they were up against the difficult challenge of bowling on placid and batsmen-friendly wickets.”
“After it became obvious that the bat is likely to dominate the ball in the World Cup, we revisited our strategy and reverted to the pace of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz. Furthermore, Amir and Wahab give the fast bowling attack more experience to back and support the relatively inexperienced but immensely talent Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain.”
On Wahab, who has taken 102 wickets in 79 ODIs including 24 World Cup wickets, Inzy said, “The lack of potency of our frontline bowlers in the recent ODI series against England meant that a change was needed. In addition, we now know that we will encounter batting wickets throughout the World Cup campaign.”
“The combination of both these elements, meant that we believed that right now, utilising the World Cup experience and knowledge of Wahab was the correct choice.”
“Wahab has been training and playing club cricket, and the player of his calibre will not face much problem in adapting and adjusting to the gruelling demands of the World Cup. In addition, playing in the World Cup warm up matches, bowling his quota, will have him match-ready.”
“The bowling unit during the England ODIs has not clicked as anticipated or expected; if we have at our disposal two vastly experienced pace duo of Amir and Wahab, then it will be foolish not to include them,” said Inzamam.
Pakistan’s final 15-man squad for World Cup: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Hasnain.