LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Monday announced a 15-member squad for the upcoming T20I series against Afghanistan, naming Shadab Khan as the captain for the Sharjah tour.
Ahead of the team’s announcement, PCB chief Najam Sethi said that young players who had performed in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2023 will be given the opportunity in the series and that he had taken the senior players Babar Azam, Muhammad Rizwan, and Shaheen Shah Afridi into confidence over the strategy.
In a press statement issued separately, Sethi congratulated Shadab on his appointment as the Pakistan team captain for the series against Afghanistan.
“Shadab Khan has been the Pakistan vice-captain in white-ball cricket for the past couple of years and it is logical that he takes over the side in the absence of Babar Azam for the short three-match T20I tour of Sharjah.”
The PCB chief said that Mohammad Yousuf has been appointed as the interim head and batting coach for the short Sharjah tour and to “ensure continuity”.
Yousuf has been with the national side since last year as a batting coach and has also been working at the National High-Performance Centre.
Sharing the reasons behind giving rest to the senior players, Chief Selector Haroon Rasheed said they have followed the standard rotation policy by resting the leading performers and providing high-performing domestic performers with opportunities to demonstrate their talent and potential at the international level.
He added that this will also allow the board to test the temperament and abilities of these players and help it to strengthen its pool of players as they look forward to building and preparing a formidable side for next year’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and United States.
“However, and in doing so, we have ensured that we select a side that is equally strong and capable of winning the series against a strong Afghanistan side for whom Sharjah is like a second home. And to achieve that, we have retained seven players from the last series, recalled four experienced cricketers and clubbed them with four uncapped players to make the 15-member side a truly mixture of youth and experience.”
Rasheed congratulated Ihsanullah, Saim Ayub, Tayyab Tahir and Zaman Khan for their induction into the national side after a series of strong performances in the domestic circuit as well as the PSL 8.
Azam Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim have been recalled after they too demonstrated in the PSL that they are capable of excelling in the shortest format and also providing experience and stability in the side.
“Babar, Fakhar, Haris, Rizwan and Shaheen have been provided breaks from the short Sharjah trip to allow them to switch off from competitive cricket so that they can complete their rehabilitations, regroup, recompose and recharge their batteries and be fully fit for the challenges in the tough and challenging 2023-24 season.”
In the past 15 months, Babar and Rizwan have practically been on the road, while Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf and Shaheen have battled injuries.
Babar has played 10 Tests, 12 ODIs, 26 T20Is and 19 PSL matches, while Rizwan has featured in eight Tests, 11 ODIs, 25 T20Is and 22 PSL matches besides a few matches in the Bangladesh Premier Lague. Haris has appeared in one Test, 10 ODIs, 23 T20Is and 23 PSL matches.
Fakhar and Shaheen have demonstrated excellent recoveries from knee injuries by playing in 10 and nine PSL matches, respectively. However, both star players need more time to complete their rehabilitation to regain complete match fitness.
Fakhar suffered knee injuries prior and during the T20 World Cup, while Shaheen was sidelined for three months in July after picking up a knee injury in the first Galle Test. Although Shaheen returned for the T20 World Cup, he missed the home series against England and New Zealand in December 2022 and January 2023.
Pakistan is scheduled to feature in eight ODIs in a lead up to the 50-over Asia Cup 2023 and the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, will play in seven ICC World Test Championship matches and appear in 25 T20Is in the build-up to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 over the next 15 months.
Shadab Khan (captain) (Islamabad United), Abdullah Shafique (Lahore Qalandars), Azam Khan (Islamabad United), Faheem Ashraf (Islamabad United), Iftikhar Ahmed (Quetta Gladiators), Ihsanullah (Multan Sultans), Imad Wasim (Karachi Kings), Mohammad Haris (Peshawar Zalmi), Mohammad Nawaz (Quetta Gladiators), Mohammad Wasim Junior (Islamabad United), Naseem Shah (Quetta Gladiators), Saim Ayub (Peshawar Zalmi), Shan Masood (Multan Sultans), Tayyab Tahir (Karachi Kings), Zaman Khan (Lahore Qalandars)
Reserve players – Abrar Ahmed (Islamabad United), Haseebullah (Peshawar Zalmi) and Usama Mir (Multan Sultans)