Image courtesy of: Zimbio
After knocking on the national selectors’ door for the last couple of months with a string of strong performances in domestic cricket, Kamran Akmal has finally regained his spot in Pakistan’s ODI and Twenty20 squads for the upcoming tour of the West Indies.
Akmal has been in sublime form as of late as he was the top-scorer in the recent first-class season with 1,035 runs at an average of 79.61.
He also topped the scoring charts in the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), accumulating 353 runs at an average of 32.09.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad also returned to both squads after being overlooked for a year, mainly due to poor form and disciplinary problems.
Shehzad came back on the selectors’ radar after an impressive showing in the Departmental One Day Cup, where he was the highest scorer with 653 runs at an average of 93.28.
Furthermore, with Pakistan in need of a new opening batsman after Sharjeel Khan was provisionally suspended and charged for breaching numerous sections of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) anti-corruption code during the PSL, Shehzad was the man that best fit the bill.
While Akmal and Shehzad are back, there was no place for batsman Azhar Ali, who stepped down as ODI captain after Pakistan were crushed 4-1 by Australia in a five-match ODI series in January.
However, despite Azhar being dropped, chief selector and former Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq revealed that the 32-year-old is still in contention to be included in the national team for the Champions Trophy in England in June.
“He is still in our loop for Champions Trophy in England where, considering the conditions, we probably will need our senior batsmen,” Inzamam said. “But for now we wanted to encourage our junior players who can have a future with Pakistan.”
Another player who missed out on selection was batsman Umar Akmal as he was the only person to fail a fitness test out of a group of 32 players at a training camp in Lahore.
“We had a set a fitness standard which isn’t really a tough one to start with,” Inzamam said. “But he still didn’t meet the average level. So whoever the player is, whatever his performance is like, we could not select him. Umar being dropped is a reprimand and it’s a major blow for any player. He is a good player, we needed him, but we have to take a decision.”
With Azhar and Umar out, it gave the selectors a chance to instill some young blood in the ODI squad, and that is exactly what they have done as they have called up five uncapped players – Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Asif Zakir, Mohammad Asghar and Fahim Ashraf.
“These young players are equally good and they are going to play international cricket for the country,” Inzamam said. “So they need to play at the highest level at some stage and I have full faith in them. They will perform, and conditions in the West Indies, we all know are similar to the ones in subcontinent and the West Indies team isn’t like the one in the 70s, 80s or even from the 90s. But still if they face tough competition there, this will obviously help them to develop.”
As for the Twenty20 squad, Pakistan have recalled left-arm seamers Usman Khan, who last played Twenty20 cricket in December 2013, and Rumman Raees, who featured in his only Twenty20 International in September 2016.
Pakistan ODI Squad: Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Asif Zakir, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Fahim Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Asghar.
Pakistan T20 Squad: Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Rumman Raees, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan.