National chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq announced squads for four Twenty20s and three One-Dayers for the tour of the West Indies, starting March 26, which saw Ahmed Shehzad and Kamran Akmal make comebacks on the basis of their prolific run during the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Shehzad last donned national colours against Australia in March 2016 during the ICC World T20. The opening batsman made a strong case for his return in the Pakistan side by scoring 242 runs in 10 matches for Quetta Gladiators. He hit three fifties during the tournament, all coming in the last five matches.
Akmal, who had been out of the national contention for almost three years, had a tremendous run with the bat last season, scoring more than a thousand runs in Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament, Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, and converting that form into the shorter format by pocketing the best PSL player award.
Twenty20 Squad: Ahmad Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Muhammad Hafeez, Baber Azam, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Sarfraz Ahmad (c), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Muhammad Nawaz, Hassan Ali, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Rumman Raees, Usman Khan Shinwari
Speaking to the reporters at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Inzamam said: “We have looked at the players from every angle before naming them in the side. It includes their performances and their fitness.”
Akmal had been raring to return to the national line-up. He scored 353 runs at an average of 32 with two fifties and the only century of the season. Pakistan dropped Mohammad Rizwan to pave the way for his return.
When asked whether he was selected solely on the basis of his batting performances, the former Pakistan captain replied: “We had been carrying two wicketkeepers. Kamran deserved a spot in the national line-up after his performances during the first-class season and the recently concluded PSL. We should make the most out of his form. If we need someone to keep the stumps, he can do this job too.”
Umar Akmal, who returned to the national squad during the home series against the West Indies in the United Arab Emirates in September last year, had been dropped after he was the only player – out of the 32-men preliminary squad — to fail the fitness test.
ODI Squad: Ahmad Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Muhammad Hafeez, Baber Azam, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Asif Zakir, Sarfraz Ahmad (c), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hassan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Muhammad Amir, Fahim Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Muhammad Asghar
“We had kept a fitness standard which was not very high,” Inzamam said, adding that anyone not meeting them was to be ignored.
Mohammad Amir, who had a rather ordinary run during the PSL last month with 10 wickets in 10 matches at an average of 26, is rested for the shorter-format series.
In the national selectors’ attempt to give young talent a chance, Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed’s predecessor, missed out the limited-overs leg of the Caribbean tour. PSL2017’s wonder boy Shadab Khan has been preferred over Yasir Shah. Rumman Raees, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Asghar, and Usman Khan Shinwari are also included in the line-up.