The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday announced an altered squad for this month’s Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, with former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed replacing the young Azam Khan.
The national selectors made three changes to the team announced last month “after taking into consideration player performances and form”, the PCB said in a statement.
In the other two changes, Haider Ali has replaced Mohammad Hasnain, while Fakhar Zaman, who was originally named as a travel reserve, has swapped places with Khushdil Shah.
Haider, dropped from the initial squad after violating a bio-secure bubble in the Pakistan Super League in the UAE in June, has amassed 315 runs in eight games with three fifties in the National T20 Cup.
Meanwhile, the decision on Sohaib Maqsood’s inclusion in the squad will be made following medical advice, the PCB added. The top-order batter underwent MRI scans for his lower back after the October 6 National T20 match against Northern and missed Thursday’s Punjab derby against Central Punjab.
The T20 World Cup will be held in the United Arab Emirates from October 17 to November 14. Pakistan is in Group 2 and will open its campaign against India on October 24 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
The squad announced by chief selector Muhammad Wasim on September 6 had raised eyebrows after a number of experienced campaigners were left out and some inexperienced and out-of-form players were picked for the tournament.
At least five among the 15-man national side were struggling to justify their selection during the 18-match first leg of the National T20 Cup. Of the quintet, only Sohaib Maqsood overcame a poor start with two half-centuries for the winless Southern Punjab.
But his teammates Azam Khan and Khushdil Shah, Northern’s Asif Ali and Sindh speedster Mohammad Hasnain all failed to make any impact at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, barring a few exceptions.
The abrupt cancellation of the New Zealand white-ball series last month had already complicated Pakistan’s preparations for the T20 World Cup because those bilateral international fixtures against the Black Caps would have provided a stern test for the players picked by Wasim and company.
“After reviewing player performances in the highly competitive National T20 and in consultation with the team management, we have decided to include Haider Ali, Fakhar Zaman and Sarfaraz Ahmed in the squad for the … World Cup,” Wasim was quoted as saying by the PCB on Friday.
He said the three in-form players would bring with them a “wealth of experience and talent, and provide further stability, balance and strength to the side”.
“It must be tough for Azam, Khushdil and Hasnain for missing out but they still have a lot to offer in their careers,” Wasim said, adding that trio was in the PCB’s future plans for post-World Cup cricket.
“I am pleased with the intensity and high quality of cricket that we have witnessed in the National T20. It has not only provided the players excellent match practice in the lead-up to the UAE competition, [but] it has also given us the opportunity to closely monitor the player progress and then make decisions that are in the best interest of the side for what will be a cut-throat tournament.”
Pakistan’s 15-player squad confirmed by the selectors on Friday is (in alphabetical order):
- Babar Azam (captain, Central Punjab)
- Shadab Khan (vice-captain, Northern)
- Asif Ali (Northern)
- Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
- Haider Ali (Northern)
- Haris Rauf (Northern)
- Hasan Ali (Central Punjab)
- Imad Wasim (Northern)
- Mohammad Hafeez (Central Punjab)
- Mohammad Nawaz (Northern)
- Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
- Mohammad Wasim Jr (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
- Sarfaraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper, Sindh)
- Shaheen Shah Afridi (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
- Sohaib Maqsood (Southern Punjab)
The travelling reserves in the squad are Khushdil Shah (Southern Punjab), Shahnawaz Dahani (Sindh) and Usman Qadir (Central Punjab).
Schedule of Pakistan’s matches in T20 World Cup
- Oct 24: Pakistan v India, Group 2, Dubai International Cricket Stadium
- Oct 26: Pakistan v New Zealand, Group 2, Sharjah Cricket Stadium
- Oct 29: Pakistan v Afghanistan, Group 2, Dubai International Cricket Stadium
- Nov 2: Pakistan v A2, Group 2, Sheikh Zayed International Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
- Nov 7: Pakistan v B1, Group 2, Sharjah Cricket Stadium