Former captain Shoaib Malik and experienced all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez were on Thursday recalled to the 15-member Pakistan squad for the three-match T20I series against Bangladesh, starting in Lahore on January 24. Besides, the national selectors also picked uncapped pace bowler Haris Rauf and batsman Ahsan Ali in the team.
The national selection committee, headed by head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, dropped experienced pacers Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Aamir from the Bangladesh series.
The national selectors have replaced seven players who were part of the Pakistan squad that lost 0-2 to Australia in a T20I series late last year.
Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan, and Wahab Riaz were axed from the squad.
Ali, Zaman, Sohail, Amir, and Riaz were also part of the squad that lost 0-3 to Sri Lanka at home in October.
The comebacks of Malik and Hafeez were on the cards since the last two played in the 50-over World Cup in England, but the selection of Rauf comes as a big surprise.
Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis had hinted at Rauf’s selection recently after he took 13 wickets in four matches for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League in Australia. Rauf is presently playing for the Melbourne Stars but has not been impressive in his last two outings.
Batsman Ahsan Ali, who played in the last Pakistan Super League for champions Quetta Gladiators, and all-rounder Ammad Butt have been steady performers in domestic cricket. Butt was also a part of the Pakistan team that won the Asian Emerging Nations Cup recently in Bangladesh, where he bowled a heroic final over in the semi-finals against India.
Aamir last year announced his shock retirement from Test cricket at the age of 27 to focus on white-ball cricket and since then he has faced a lot of criticism over his decision and has also been blamed for letting down Pakistan cricket.
Misbah said that the changes were made to turn around Pakistan’s performances in T20I cricket. “We have lost eight of our last nine T20Is and as the number-one ranked side, this is unacceptable. We need to end our losing streak and get back to winning habits leading to the upcoming Asia Cup and ICC T20 World Cup. This has played a critical role in our decision-making,” Misbah said in a statement.
“We tried alternate combinations in the series against Sri Lanka and Australia, and obviously it didn’t work the way we had expected. Hafeez and Malik bring a total experience of 200 T20Is between them and if you mix these with the other youngsters we have in the side, then I think it becomes a good blend of experience and youth.”
Misbah said the seven axed players are still in contention for places in the T20 World Cup-bound squad, provided they strike form at the earliest.
“The seven players who have missed out on selection are by no means out of our planning but considering their recent form in international cricket and taking into account other strong performances in our National T20 Cup, we have decided to make these changes,” he said.
“The Pakistan Super League 2020 is starting in four weeks’ time and if they can reclaim their winning form, then they will be back in contention for the upcoming assignments, including the Asia Cup and ICC T20 World Cup.”
Pakistan T20 captain Babar Azam said he was happy with the selected squad and thanked the selectors for accepting his request to include the experienced duo of Hafeez and Malik.
“I believe they still have plenty to offer to Pakistan cricket in the shortest format and their experience can be critical to our performances in the upcoming series,” Azam said.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (captain), Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir.
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