It took the selectors until two days past the original deadline, but Pakistan have finally announced the squad that will travel to the World Twenty20 in India in March as well as the Asia Cup in Bangladesh later this month. The big decision, and one that reportedly held up the announcement amid disagreement among the selectors, was the exclusion of opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad and inclusion in his place of Khurram Manzoor.
Shehzad has paid the price for a woeful run of form, which saw the 24-year-old hit just 23 runs in Pakistan’s three-match Twenty20 international series defeat in New Zealand last month. He fared no better in the teams’ 50-over series, getting just 25 runs in two matches.
However, Manzoor appears to have been far from a unanimous choice to fill the opener berth. The 29-year-old has played just 16 Test matches and seven one-day internationals for his country, but has not turned out for Pakistan in any format for close to two years. He is yet to play a T20 international.
“While picking the squad, the team management and skipper were consulted by the selectors, and all concerned gave their consent in this regard,” chairman of the selection committee Haroon Rasheed said in a statement.
“The T20 team has been selected keeping in mind the conditions during Asia cup and World T20 and the recent performances of some players in domestic and A Team tours. The team is a fine blend of experience and youth and the selectors believe that team will do well in both tournaments.”
Manzoor is one of four uncapped players in the 20-over format named in the squad. Also included are fellow batsman Babar Azam, all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz and pace bowler Rumman Raees. With that came several other exclusions from the party that lost 2-1 to New Zealand. Notable among them is fast bowler Umar Gul, the second-highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 international but who has paid the price for conceding over nine runs an over in his two outings. Saad Nasim, Shoaib Maqsood, Mohammad Rizwan and Aamer Yamin also miss out.
There is a place in the 15-man squad for Mohammad Amir, who made his return to international cricket in New Zealand following a five-year ban for spot fixing. Having made his international debut in the 2009 World Twenty20, the 23-year-old fast bowler is now set to make his return to a global stage.
He will also be striving to help Pakistan return to prominence in cricket’s shortest format. Having reached the World T20 final in 2007 and then lifted the trophy in 2009, Pakistan’s success in the format has fallen away in the years since. After the defeat to New Zealand, the team now captained by Shahid Afridi find themselves in seventh place in the International Cricket Council’s T20I rankings.
Before going to the World T20, Pakistan will compete with hosts Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, a yet to be determined qualifier and opening opponents and fierce rivals India in the Asia Cup.
Pakistan squad for Asia Cup and World T20
Shahid Afridi (Captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Sarfaraz Ahmed (Vice-Captain/Wicketkeeper), Babar Azam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Khurram Manzoor, Rumman Rais
Asia Cup (all matches begin at 8:30 a.m. EST)
Feb. 27: vs. India at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Feb. 29: vs. TBD qualifier at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
March 2: vs. Bangladesh at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
March 4: vs. Sri Lanka at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
World T20 warm-up matches
March 12: vs. opponent to be confirmed at Eden Gardens, Kolkata
March 14: vs. Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens, Kolkata
World T20 (all times TBC)
March 16: vs. TBD qualifier at Eden Gardens, Kolkata
March 19: vs. India at Himachai Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamsala
March 22: vs. New Zealand at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
March 25: vs. Australia at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali