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Haseebullah, Abbas Afridi earn maiden T20I call-ups as Pakistan announce squad for New Zealand series

 

Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Image Source : GETTY IMAGES Shaheen Shah Afridi.

Pakistan have announced a 17-member squad for their upcoming five-match T20I series against New Zealand in New Zealand starting January 12. The announcement witnesses the return of wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan to the squad whereas emerging batter Mohammad Haris and spin-bowling allrounder Shadab Khan have not been included.

While Haris has been rested, Shadab is undergoing rehab after twisting his ankle and will require two weeks to regain his fitness.

The selection committee has included uncapped players like Haseebullah Khan and Abbas Afridi alongside Usama Mir who is yet to make his T20I debut for Pakistan.

Before Haris’ non-selection could raise any eyebrows, chief selector Wahab Riaz confirmed that he has been rested and is a part of their plans in the future along with Shadab.

“Shadab is a very important member of Pakistan T20 cricket and he’s a white-ball specialist. Unfortunately, he got injured during the season; he twisted his ankle which will take another two weeks for rehab. He will be available to bowl after that. Haris is rested because there were some first-class performers and we saw Harris’ capability and since he’s part of our plans going forward, we want to use our pool of players,” Wahab told reporters in a press conference.

Pakistan’s fast bowling reserves are fairly depleted at the moment with the absence of Naseem Shah, Ihsanullah Khan and Mohammad Hasnain. However, as per Wahab, the Pakistani fans will soon be able to see Hasnain and Naseem in action.

“Ihsanullah, Shadab, Mohammad Hasnain, and Naseem Shah were unfit,” Wahab said. “The good news is Hasnain and Naseem have recovered and Naseem is undergoing rehab at the cricket academy and we don’t want to overload him so he will be available for the PSL next year. Same for Hasnain – he is returning and we’ve called him at the academy so we can assess him. Ihsanullah will unfortunately take more time and I’m not sure right now if he’ll play in the PSL or not. Shadab will also come to the academy after his ankle injury and he’ll undergo rehab,” Wahab said.

On the other hand, Wahab and his committee members see Azam as an “Impact Player” and have rewarded him for the skills that he possesses. Wahab said that the selection committee has informed Azam that he is a part of the plan marching forward but the 25-year-old needs to work on his fitness levels.

“We’ve watched Azam very closely and at times it happens that you’ve to prefer skills over fitness. A player winning you a match is much more important than anything else,” Wahab said. “We’ve spoken to Azam about fitness levels and we’ve sent him a very clear message that we want to invest in you but you have to respond as well. Obviously, you can’t expect someone to lose 10-15kgs in 10 days so Azam will travel with the team. He’s an impact player so we want to give him a chance and keep an eye on his fitness levels,” the chief selector mentioned.

Pakistan’s T20I squad for the New Zealand series:

Shaheen Shah Afridi (c), Aamer Jamal, Abbas Afridi, Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Haseebullah Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim, Sahibzada Farhan, Saim Ayub, Usama Mir, Zaman Khan

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