Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan have shocked the cricketing community by including pace bowler Sohail Khan in their 15-man World Cup squad, even though he has not played an ODI since 2011.
There were many notable exclusions from the squad, including Anwar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Nasir Jamshed, Fawad Alam, Sohail Tanvir, Zulfiqar Babar, Umar Gul, Bilawal Bhatti, Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal.
“Obviously Sohail’s inclusion is a surprise for all of you but this is a proof that we selectors do prefer the domestic performances,” chief selector Moin Khan said. “He had a good one-day tournament and this is the reward for all his hard work and performances.
“Shoaib Malik was being considered for the middle-order slot as we lost the bowling utility of Saeed Ajmal and Hafeez. But eventually, we preferred Haris Sohail as his recent performances and the added advantage of him being a left-hander put him ahead.
“Nasir Jamshed was discussed for the opening slot but we felt recent performances were important and hence couldn’t justify his selection. Fawad Alam also, unfortunately, could not make it into our team combination, but he is indeed is a fighter.”
Khan also defended his decision to only include two specialist openers in the squad.
“We have gambled having two openers but we have Sarfraz Ahmed as a back-up force,” he said. “The nature of his game, his positivity, and the sort of shots he plays make him a solid prospect to bat higher if needed. We are very much clear in in our mind that we have the best two openers, with Sarfraz as a third option.”
Even though six out of the 15 players chosen are nursing minor injuries, Khan reassured fans that all of them would be fully fit prior to the start of the tournament.
“The 15 men are fully fit following the medical evidence we have after detailed fitness tests,” he said. “Obviously, the standard is not very high, but with the recently developed culture, every player is improving.
“I must say that the fitness levels of our players is ready to match those of players in any other part of the cricket world. No one can give assurance of a result, but we are confident that this team can do better in the World Cup.”
When asked if captain Misbah-ul-Haq had recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered during the recent ODI series against New Zealand, Khan said: “He is fit and has informed the selectors that he has recovered. His call is taken with respect as he is the captain and we have to respect his observation. He has started running, batting and sprinting between the wicket, but if there is any deficiency, he still has plenty of time to cover up and I am sure in due course he will be fine.”
Khan was also quick to safeguard his decision not to include a specialist off-spinner in the side.
“We had also carried two leg-spinners [Mushtaq Ahmed and Iqbal Sikander] in the 1992 World Cup, so that isn’t something exceptional,” he said. “With legspinners, the probability of taking field wickets increases. We have as many as 12 matches including the World Cup games, and given the age factor of Afridi, naturally we have to keep a back-up as well. Yasir, we believe, is a wicket-taking bowler and a good prospect.”
Pakistan’s World Cup Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Ehsan Adil, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz