Barbados Tridents’ Limacol Caribbean Premier League franchise player Shoaib Malik has been dropped from the Pakistan team to tour the Caribbean for a series of One-Day Internationals and T20s later this month.
Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who had a horrendous ICC Champions Trophy tournament with the bat in England, as well as opener Imran Farhat, joins Malik on the chopped list but the talismanic Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal have been recalled to the Pakistan squad. Fast bowler Umar Gul, who last played in March during the South Africa tour, was sidelined again as he hadn’t yet recovered from his knee surgery.
The ODI squad features the uncapped 21-year-old wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, as a backup to Akmal, who was picked as the first-choice wicketkeeper. Ahmed Shehzad, the opening batsman, has been recalled to both squads. Zulfiqar Babar, 34, who has been part of the domestic circuit for more than ten years, figures in the T20 squad.
Pakistan were let down by their senior batsmen in the Champions Trophy in England as the side failed to pass 200 in their three games – the third match against India was rain-affected – only to be eliminated from the group stage. Malik managed just 25 runs in three matches, Kamran 23 and Farhat four in two. With the pitches in the West Indies expected to be slower, the selectors have gone with one less seamer, dropping Ehsan Adil.
Afridi had been dropped from the ODI squad twice in the last six months after hitting a slump with both bat and ball. He was first dropped for the one-day leg of the India tour in January before making a comeback in South Africa, but was left out again for the Champions Trophy. In the 21 ODIs since January 2012, Afridi has picked up 15 wickets at 57.13 and scored 308 runs at 19.25. He had been training at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore over the past couple of weeks, and passed the fitness test.
The captain Misbah-ul-Haq defended Afridi’s inclusion but added that he wasn’t necessarily an automatic selection in the XI. Misbah said Afridi was picked as an “optional” allrounder who can bat at No.7 and bowl spin.
“He is an option who can help us on slower tracks (in the West Indies),” Misbah said, when asked how difficult it was to pick an out-of-form player. “Malik was the one who had been helping us out with six to seven overs and was handy with the bat as well so Afridi has been recalled in place of Malik as an extra all-rounder who can roll his arm on turning tracks and contribute quick runs at No.7.
“But it doesn’t mean he is automatically in the XI. We first have to look at the conditions and then take a call. We are happy with the selection of 16 players and I will be ready to shoulder the responsibility of any result.”
“Umar Akmal was dropped from the Test side last year and was subsequently axed from the ODI side this year. He had been working on his wicketkeeping skills at the NCA over the last two weeks under the coach Dav Whatmore. When asked if wicketkeeping would be an additional burden on him, chief selector Iqbal Qasim said that Umar Akmal was “comfortable with wicketkeeping and the decision had been taken with his consent.”
“We have also added Mohammad Rizwan as a backup wicketkeeper but Umar will be doing most of the glove work and Rizwan will also be tried but it depends on the situation,” Qasim said.
Umar Akmal has kept wicket in seven ODIs and the selectors have hinted at a short-term and experimental role, as his dual role could help the balance of the side.
ODI squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal (wk), Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Ali, Umar Amin, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Abdur Rehman, Haris Sohail T20 squad: Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal (wk), Hammad Azam, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Ali, Umar Amin, Zulfiqar Babar, Junaid Khan. (cricinfo)