Shoaib Malik is set to lead Pakistan in the ODI series against Australia as selectors decided to rest Sarfraz Ahmed from the 16-man squad announced on Friday. The series will start in Sharjah on 22 March and culminate in Dubai on 31 March.
The selectors have rested six players from the squad that lost to South Africa earlier this year which includes Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi, while Hussain Talat has been dropped and Mohammad Hafeez was not considered as he is recovering from thumb surgery.
Meanwhile, fit again Haris Sohail and Junaid Khan have been called back to the squad, while Umar Akmal has also returned after some good performances in the ongoing Pakistan Super League.
The squad also includes uncapped Abid Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain and Saad Ali.
Pakistan chairman of selectors Inzamam-ul-Haq said that they have developed a strong bench-strength which has helped them make these changes. "This is a good sign for Pakistan cricket as we now have a big pool of players who have the capability, talent and potential, and are raring to step up and seize the opportunity when thrown at the deep end," said Inzamam according to a PCB release.
“The changes have been made taking into consideration the player workload in the build-up to the World Cup. Apart from five ODIs against Australia, we have three warm-up games followed by five ODIs against England, and then two World Cup warm-up matches followed by, at least, nine games.
“This is too much cricket in a short period of time. Had there been no pre-World Cup matches in England, then we would not have made these many changes."
Commenting on the new-comers in the team, Inzamam said they had previously gone with tried and tested players but decided to give chances to new players this time around.
“Abid Ali has been knocking on the doors of international cricket. But because we had opted for tried and tested players in the past few series, he was unable to break into the side. He has now got an opportunity and I am hoping he will deliver the goods.
“Mohammad Abbas, we think, will be a handy and wicket-taking bowler in English conditions as he has regularly made the new ball do the talking. We were unable to try him in South Africa due to his shoulder injury, so this is his chance to show that he can be as effective and lethal with the new ball in ODI cricket as he is in the longer format.
Mohammad Hasnain, the Quetta Gladiators pacer who has clocked over 145kph and won praises all around, is also among the uncapped players.
“Mohammad Hasnain has been identified as one of the fast bowlers for the future. The 18-year-old has not only bowled with pace, regularly clocking 145kph, but he has also shown tremendous control with the ball which has earned him crucial wickets in the ongoing PSL. Like we nurtured and trained Shaheen Shah Afridi and so many other great fast bowlers of yesteryears, we, with the support of the team management, have decided to provide the same pathway to the Hyderabad-born lad."
Umar Akmal, who's last ODI was against Australia in 2017, is one of the main players making a comeback. Akmal has so far scored two fifties in this year's PSL and a lean patch for Asif Ali has meant Pakistan tilting towards the 28-year-old as a backup.
“Umar Akmal, we all know, is immensely talented and still has plenty to offer. Sometimes, time away from international cricket allows a player to recompose and gather himself, and come back strongly. I hope this happens with this player, as a fully fit and in-form Umar will bolster the middle-order."
“Saad Ali has not only been a consistent scorer in domestic cricket, including 50-over cricket but also had good series against England and New Zealand A sides.
“Haris Sohail and Junaid Khan have been drafted in the side after they have regained complete match fitness, while Yasir Shah has been included in the side keeping in mind that we may opt to select two wrist spinners in the World Cup squad.”
Shoaib Malik (c), Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saad Ali, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah