LAHORE: Pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi will start bowling in the first week of October in London after recovering from his knee injury before flying in to Australia to join the Pakistan squad for the T20 World Cup later that month.
Shaheen is set to be one of the first names in the 15-member World Cup due to be announced by chief selector Mohammad Wasim on Thursday, the last day for the submission of squads set by the International Cricket Council. Names of three travelling reserves, who will be available forthwith in case of an injury, are also likely be announced.
Shaheen injured his right knee during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle in July and missed the second Test of the series as well as Pakistan’s tour of the Netherlands and the recently-concluded Asia Cup.
His rehabilitation period was initially slated to end on Aug 28 but he was then also ruled out of this month’s seven-match T20 series against England at home after Pakistan Cricket Board’s medical panel decided to send him to England as he wasn’t unable to recover from the injury.
Dawn learnt on Wednesday that the authorities at the rehabilitation centre in England will allow Shaheen to start bowling at the start of next month and he will join the squad without having played a match in almost three months as he will also not be part of the Pakistan squad for their tri-series in New Zealand, which also features Bangladesh, ahead of the World Cup.
The squad for the upcoming England series as well as the World Cup is likely to have no big surprises despite Pakistan’s poor showing with the bat in their Asia Cup final loss to Sri Lanka.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam struggled with the bat throughout the tournament and the team’s sluggish approach at the top of the order has come for criticism from several former players.
Babar along with Mohammad Rizwan provided Pakistan with slow starts which put the middle order under pressure, most notably in the final against Sri Lanka where they lost by 23 runs. With a middle order comprising pinch-hitters rather than pure batters, it’s an approach that can be a hit or a miss.
Former Pakistan batter Sadiq Mohammad told Dawn on Wednesday that Pakistan should try “a combination of five specialist batters along with two all-rounders and three pacers” during the England series.
“Players like Shan Masood, Imam-ul-Haq, Haider Ali or Abdullah Shafique should be tried during the series,” he said.
Sources told Dawn that Shan is not happy with the treatment meted out to him by the selectors and left the short training camp in Lahore ahead of the tour of the Netherlands as he wanted to play for English county Derbyshire.
Calls for including Shan, who has had a prolific year with the bat in various franchise leagues as well as county cricket, have been rife during the Asia Cup.
Former Pakistan chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said including Shan, alongside explosive opener Sharjeel Khan and veteran Shoaib Malik — all of whom have been among the runs during the ongoing National T20 Cup, would strengthen Pakistan’s middle order.
“I think Shan , Sharjeel and Malik should be in the team, especially in the middle order,” he told reporters during an event in Lahore.
However, it is unlikely Pakistan will make too many changes to the squad with the World Cup fast approaching.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2022