LAHORE: Pacer Mohammad Amir and power-hitter Asif Ali failed to find a place in Pakistan’s 15-man preliminary squad announced by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, commencing from May 30 in England.
However, both Amir and Asif have been included for the ODI series against England and they could feature in the mega event as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) can take a final call till May 23. Amir had an impressive run the last time the green brigade visited England as he was adjudged the ‘Player of the Match’ in the 2017 Champions Trophy final when Pakistan defeated India to lift the trophy. However, the 27-year-old has remained wicketless in nine out of the 14 ODIs he has played since then.
Big-hitter Asif Ali was left out, even though he had a solid campaign at the PSL, where he accumulated 281 runs in 12 games for Islamabad United, which included two half-centuries, at an average of 35.12 and an incredible strike-rate of 182.46.
From the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 winning squad, the PCB has retained Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Shoaib Malik while four new faces in World Cup squad include Abid Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hasnain and Shaheen Shah Afridi. Imam and Shaheen have featured in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2014 and 2018 respectively.
Pakistan world cup squad is a combination of three openers, four middle-order batsmen, wicketkeeper/batsman in Sarfraz Ahmed, two spinners and five fast bowlers.
Speaking at the press conference here at Gaddafi Stadium, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said that the side had been picked according to the conditions and included reliable batters, trusted wicket-taking bowlers and dynamic fielders. “In England and Wales, conditions play a critical role. With this in mind, we have selected a three-dimensional side, which gives the captain a wide range of options of whatever game plan he chooses on a match day.
We have experienced batters, who are backed up by bowlers with plenty of variety and variation to exploit any type of conditions. “This is more or less the side we have been playing since the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. I have absolute trust that this side has grown further in experience and stature since 2017. Supported by the flare, skill, talent and killing-instinct, this side has the capability and potential to rise to the occasion and produce strong performances.”
Talking about his selections, Inzamam said: “While picking the side, we’ve tried to cover all bases by assessing our strengths as well as analysing each opponent, the match venues and the event format.
All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez was included in the World Cup squad subject to fully recovering from a fractured thumb he sustained during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in February this year. “Hafeez has not played any cricket for the past 10-odd weeks, but he has always featured in our plans,” said Inzamam.
“Although his inclusion in the World Cup squad is subject to fitness, yesterday we got a boost when he started playing with tennis ball with his doctor confirming he will be available for selection for the series against England. Our World Cup opener is on May 31 against the West Indies, which is still six weeks away, and we are confident he will be fully fit and ready to display his vast international experience,” he added.
Abid Ali was preferred to Shan Masood as Pakistan’s backup opener after the 31-year-old right-hander scored a century on debut against Australia last month. Abid excelled on debut in the fourth ODI as he struck a brilliant 112. However, even though he was dismissed for a golden duck in the fifth ODI, he finished with an average of 56. Hasnain has been selected due to his sheer pace and speed. He may not have played many ODIs but he has already made an impact by making the top batsmen hop and run in his brief career while also picking up wickets.
“Abid Ali and Mohammad Hasnain have been selected after they cleared their fitness tests at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) on Thursday morning,” said the chief selector and added: “Abid is the third opener in the side, and has earned a place following a string of high scores, including a magnificent century on debut against Australia last month.
“Shoaib Malik and Hafeez have played in World Cups before (Malik 2007, Hafeez 2007 and 2011), which makes them experienced and qualified to provide the required stability to the middle-order. The exuberance of Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam make them the most exciting, talented and entertaining top-three in the world. Sarfraz is a proven-performer with the bat who has played a number of crucial knocks for Pakistan and his presence further strengthens the middle-order.