Currently placed at the fifth in the ICC ODI rankings, Pakistan are all set to take part in the Asia Cup tournament in UAE. In their bid to lift their third Asia Cup title, Pakistan are expected to face stiff competition from the defending champions India, apart from four other Asian rivals – Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, and Bangladesh. The men in green will start their campaign against debutant Hong Kong on September 16 and will take on arch-rivals India on September 19.
The Pakistan squad that features in the tournament is blended with both fresh faces and experienced campaigners. Here is a look at Pakistan’s Asia Cup squad
Pakistan’s squad for Asia Cup: Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul Haq, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Muhammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi
The skipper Sarfraz Ahmed leads Pakistan in all the three formats of the game. The wicketkeeper-batsman led the side to their maiden ICC Champions Trophy in 2017. Pakistan, under his captaincy, rose to the top position in ICC T20 Team Rankings. Since his debut against India in 2007, he has played 90 ODIs. in which he has scored 1,748 runs at an average of 34.27. The 31-year old has scored 2 tons and 8 half centuries in his ODI career.
The 28-year-old Fakhar Zaman officially announced himself after he became the first Pakistan batsman to score an ODI double hundred (210 vs Zimbabwe) earlier this year. With a career strike-rate of 101.91, Zaman is known for his hard-hitting style. He also helped Pakistan clinch its first ICC Champions Trophy in England in 2017 with a match-winning ton against India. He has played 18 ODIs and has a career average of 76.47.
The nephew of former Pakistan skipper Inzamam Ul-Haq, Imam-Ul-Haq has played 9 ODIs. The 22-year-old scored a century in his ODI debut against Sri Lanka, making him the second Pakistani batsman to achieve this feat. Imam with Zaman also etched another landmark when the duo stitched a 304-run-partnership for the opening wicket in the fourth ODI against Zimbabwe in July. The left-handed batsman has amassed 544 runs in the 50-over format at an average of 68.
Babar Azam is an experienced candidate and has featured in 46 ODIs for Pakistan. The 23-year old has scored 1,973 runs at an average of 54.81. The right-handed batsman has 8 ODI centuries and 7 fifties to his name. The middle-order batsman has also played 13 Tests and 20 T20Is for Pakistan.
Asif Ali made his debut against Zimbabwe in July this year. In 5 ODIs, The 26-year-old has scored 114 runs with one fifty to his name. The right-handed batsman has also played 10 T20Is for Pakistan in which he has scored 158 runs at an average of 39 and a solid strike rate of 159.59.
Hasan Ali has played 33 ODIs for Pakistan. The seamer, who picked up 3 wickets for 19 runs, in the ICC Champions Trophy final against India, has taken 68 wickets in his 50-overs career. The 24-year-old also finished as Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker in the Champions Trophy with 13 wickets in 5 matches.
Mohammad Amir has been impressive for Pakistan since his return to cricket in 2015 after serving the five-year ban handed to him by the ICC for spot-fixing charges. In 43 ODIs, the left-arm seamer has taken 58 wickets at an average of 29.75.
Junaid Khan is another experienced candidate in the limited overs cricket, with 69 ODIs to his name. But with the presence of Amir and Ali in the bowling attack, the left-arm seamer may have to fight for his spot in the playing XI. The 24-year-old, who made his debut against West Indies in 2011, has 100 wickets under his name at an average of 28.21.
Usman Khan made his debut last year against Sri Lanka. He was later recalled for the ODI series against Zimbabwe this year. In 6 ODIs, the left-arm seamer has taken 15 wickets at an average of 11.40. He could be one of the hidden wildcards in Pakistan’s arsenal in the tournament.
Shaheen Afridi may emerge as one of the rising stars in this edition of the Asia Cup. In the U-19 World Cup held in January 2018, Afridi grabbed the limelight by taking 12 wickets in 5 matches. His ability to swing the ball at a brisk pace can prove to be a challenge for the opponents. He is yet to make his ODI debut but has played 3 T20Is in which he has taken 4 wickets.
Shan Masood has also been included in Pakistan’s squad for the Asia Cup. The 28-year-old has played 12 Tests for Pakistan as an opening batsman, and with Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul-Haq and Haris Sohail in the squad, it is unlikely Masood will get a chance to be in the playing XI.
Pakistan will look to use former captain Shoaib Malik’s vast experience to progress further in the tournament. The right-handed batsman has featured in 266 ODIs, in which he has scored 7,015 runs at an average of 35.07. He also has nine centuries and 41 half-centuries under his name.
Haris Sohail has played 24 ODIs for Pakistan in which he has scored 87 runs at an average of 44.35. The all-rounder has also taken 10 wickets in his 50-overs career.
The 19-year-old youngster Shadab Khan made his debut against West Indies in April 2017. The leg-spinner has since then played 22 ODIs in which he has taken 33 wickets at an average of 25.60. He has also played 23 T20Is in which he has taken 32 wickets at an average of 18.00.
Mohammad Nawaz made his ODI debut against Ireland in August 2016. Since then, he has played 11 ODIs, in which he has scored 166 runs at an average of 23.71 and has taken 13 wickets at an average of 34.76. He is the only left-arm spin bowling option for Pakistan in the squad.
Faheem Ashraf made his ODI debut for Pakistan against Sri Lanka in June 2017. The right-arm medium bowler has played 12 ODIs in which he has taken 16 wickets at an average of 20.31. He also became the first Pakistani bowler to claim a T20 hat-trick against Sri Lanka at Abu Dhabi last year.