Lahore: Senior Pakistan cricketers, including captain Babar Azam and pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi, have been rested for the three-match T20I series against Afghanistan, beginning in Sharjah on March 24.
The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) national selection committee has also not included opener Muhammad Rizwan, Haris Rauf and veteran batter Fakhar Zaman in the squad to be led by all-rounder Shadab Khan.
Four new faces — fast bowlers Ihsanullah, Zaman Khan and batters Tayyab Tahir and Saim Ayub — have been included along with sidelined players Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim.
“I have spoken to Babar, Rizwan, Haris, Shaheen and Fakhar and taken them into confidence about the fact that we are using this series as a testing ground to try out new players and recall some of those who have performed well in the PSL (Pakistan Super League),” said chairman of the PCB management committee Najam Sethi on Monday.
Sethi said the seniors needed rest and added their place in the side was secure.
“Their places are confirmed in the team and we have given them genuine rest. There is no threat to our established captain, he remains captain of the national squad. The day he says I want to leave captaincy of one or more formats, that will be his decision. He is our top star and I am happy he has supported our initiative,” said Sethi.
Chief selector Haroon Rasheed said the plan was to develop and test “our new players against Afghanistan”.
“It is a tour to groom and assess our talent properly.”
Sethi also expressed disappointment with speculation in the media around selection of the team and captain, saying it was unfair.
“No one asked us. Let me tell you, Shaheen (Afridi) was never under consideration for captaincy for this series. It is Shadab’s right to lead the team.”
Media reports ahead of the squad announcement suggested that the left-arm pace bowler would lead the team for the series against Afghanistan.
“Like other countries including India and England, we have to now start workload management for our players to give chance to our new players and those who perform well in domestic cricket.”
Haroon also said that the PCB was chalking out itineraries for regular Pakistan A and Under-19 tours in future.
Pakistan squad: Shadab Khan (C), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Muhammad Haris, Muhammad Nawaz, Muhammad Wasim jr, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan.
Reserve players: Abrar Ahmed, Haseebullah Khan and Osama Mir.