Pakistan on Monday included two uncapped youngsters in a 15-man squad for this month’s three-match ODI series against World Cup finalists Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi and have appointed medium-pacer Mohammad Asif as their vice-captain.
The national selectors gave their nod of approval to promising all-rounder Fawad Alam and left-arm pacer Najaf Shah — two of the success stories of the domestic season — besides bringing back openers Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed in the ODI squad.
As expected, Asif was named the new vice-captain of the national team but only for the series in Abu Dhabi. The lanky medium-pacer makes his return to the squad after missing the World Cup because of injury and doping-related issues.
“The youngsters named in the team deserved the chance,” said Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik, who would be leading the national team for the first time in Abu Dhabi. Malik, 25, said that he has the command of a ‘balanced’ team and hoped that it would do well against Sri Lanka in the upcoming series.
The team was finalised by the national selection committee headed by former Test cricketer Salahuddin Ahmed alias Sallu and was announced after being approved by the Pakistan Cricket Board’s ad-hoc committee.
“We have given a couple of youngsters an opportunity to show their mettle at the international level,” Sallu told this correspondent. “Fawad Alam and Najaf Shah have been consistently doing well at the domestic level and also gave a good performance on the tour of Bangladesh recently. We hope they would keep up the good show in Abu Dhabi,” added Sallu, for whom it was the first task since taking over from former Test wicket-keeper Wasim Bari as the new chief selector following the World Cup debacle in the West Indies.
Pakistan are scheduled to play three one-dayers against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi from May 18-22. Sallu hoped that Pakistan would make a fresh start after a disappointing World Cup where they even lost to minnows Ireland.
“We are looking towards the future with a lot of hope,” he said. Fawad, 21, has been knocking at the doors of international cricket since his outstanding showing in domestic competitions especially the Twenty20 Cup in Karachi last year where he was adjudged as the player of the tournament.
He led Pakistan Academy to a title-winning triumph in a tri-team Academy tournament in Bangladesh recently. The 22-year-old Najaf Shah, a talented pacer from Rawalpindi, was one of the reasons behind Pakistan’s successful outing in Bangladesh.
Pakistan had some openings in the batting line-up following the retirement of former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq from the one-dayers and the unavailability of Younis Khan. They opted to recall Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed.
Butt, 22, was discarded after an unimpressive start during the last summer’s tour of England while Yasir was overlooked for the World Cup after the tour of South Africa earlier this year. Experienced all-rounder Abdul Razzaq also makes a return after missing the World Cup because of injury.
The selectors also showed faith in wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, who has been shaky behind in the stumps in recent times apart from being quite inconsistent with the bat in international outings.
Asif’s appointment as the vice-captain is controversial as the bowler is still under a cloud because of a doping episode that saw him getting banned for a year in 2006. Asif and fellow Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar tested positive for banned steroid nandrolone last September and were later banned by an inquiry committee appointed by the PCB. They were, however, cleared by an appeals tribunal — a verdict that has been challenged by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
A Board official said that Asif’s appointment is just for the series in Abu Dhabi. “The Board would review his performance as vice-captain after the series,” he said.Pakistan squad: Shoaib Malik (captain), Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal (wk), Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Najaf Shah.
Source:The NewsMore on:Abu Dhabi, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Asif, Najaf Shah, odi, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, World Cup finalists
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