Men in Green will be led by veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik
The Pakistan cricket selectors have named a 16-member squad for the five-match ODI series against world champions Australia. The series will start in Sharjah on March 22 and culminate in Dubai on March 31.
The selectors have rested six players from the squad that lost 2-3 to South Africa, earlier this year, which includes regular captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi, while Hussain Talat has been dropped and Mohammad Hafeez was not considered as he is recovering from a thumb surgery.
All-rounder Shoaib Malik has been appointed the captain in Sarfaraz’s absence. The 37-year-old has played 279 ODIs, including 38 as captain, winning 25 and losing 13.
The eight players have been replaced by cricketers who have either demonstrated in the domestic circuit that they have the ability and are ready to compete at the top level or have reclaimed fitness or form. These include Abid Ali, Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Saad Ali, Umar Akmal and Yasir Shah.
Of these eight players, there are four uncapped players in Abid, Abbas, Hasnain and Saad.
The squad includes three openers (Abid Ali, Imamul Haq, Shan Masood), four middle-order batsmen (Haris Sohail, Saad Ali, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal), wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, wrist-spinner Yasir Shah, two all-rounders (Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim) and five fast-bowlers (Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain and Usman Shinwari).
Speaking on this occasion, Pakistan chairman of selectors Inzamamul Haq: “I am pleased that we have been able to develop a strong bench-strength that has helped us to make eight changes from the previous series. This is a good sign for Pakistan cricket as we now have a big pool of players who have the capability, talent and potential, and are raring to step up and seize the opportunity when thrown at the deep end.”
He added: “The changes have been made taking into consideration the player workload in the build up to the World Cup, which starts May 30. Apart from five ODIs against Australia, we have three warm-up games followed by five ODIs against England, and then two World Cup warm-up matches followed by, at least, nine games, which will hopefully become 11 matches.”
Inzamam also spoke about, both, players making a comeback and those who are playing for the Men in Green for the very first time.
“While Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan, Umar Akmal and Yasir Shah are returning to ODI cricket, Abid Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain and Saad Ali have been rewarded for their stellar performances in domestic cricket,” he said.
The Pakistan Chief Selector admitted that the series won’t be an easy one by any stretch of the imagination.
“The series against the world champions will not be an easy one and these players, in fact, will be tested to their limits. This will provide these players a great opportunity to display their skills and temperament, strengthening their claims for a World Cup call-up as there are a few places up for grabs.
The Pakistan cricket team will depart for the UAE on March 18.
Shoaib Malik (captain), Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Imamul Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Saad Ali, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal, Usman Khan Shinwari and Yasir Shah.