Abbas Afridi, Usama, Haseebullah in Pakistan T20I squad

By our correspondent
LAHORE: Right-arm pacer Mohammad Abbas Afridi, wicketkeeper-batter Haseebullah and leg-spinner Usama Mir have earned their maiden call-ups to the T20I team following their commendable run during the domestic season. Sahibzada Farhan, who made his T20I debut for Pakistan in 2018, has also returned to the squad after he impressed with the bat in the National T20 Cup 2023-24.

Shaheen Shah Afridi will be leading the Pakistan squad for the first time. The series also marks the start of Pakistan’s preparations for the ICC T20 World Cup 2024, which is scheduled to take place in June 2024.

The national men’s selection committee headed by Wahab Riaz assembled the 17-member squad for Pakistan’s T20I tour of New Zealand, which will comprise five matches, to be played from 12 January to 21 January 2024, across four venues namely; Auckland, Hamilton, Dunedin and Christchurch. Pakistan will be touring New Zealand immediately after their Test tour of Australia, with the last match to be played from 3 to 7 January 2024 in Sydney. The squad will depart for New Zealand from Lahore on 3 January 2024, while players who are currently in Australia for the Test series, will join them on 8 January 2024.

Mohammad Abbas Afridi, who represented Peshawar, was among the top wicket-takers of the National T20 Cup. The 23-year-old picked up 14 scalps at an average of 16.43 in nine matches during the tournament. Earlier during the domestic season, he ended as the joint-highest wicket-taker of the Pakistan Cup; bagging 15 scalps at an average of 15 from seven games. He was also named the emerging player of HBL PSL 8. Representing Multan Sultans, Abbas took 23 wickets at an average of 16.17, ending as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker. Leg-spinner Usama Mir has earned his maiden T20I call-up, having made his ODI debut for Pakistan this year as well and has featured in 12 games in the format thus far.

Haseebullah earned his maiden call-up after impressing with the bat during the domestic season. He was declared player of the tournament during this year’s Pakistan Cup for his remarkable performance with the bat and gloves; he made 326 runs in seven matches, including two centuries and a half-century, and had 10 dismissals behind the stumps.

Peshawar’s top-order batter, Sahibzada Farhan, amassed 492 runs from 12 games in the National T20 Cup. The right-handed batter smashed a century and four half-centuries, and had the highest individual boundary count (55 fours and 29 sixes) in the Cup. Uncapped Abrar Ahmed returns to the squad as well. Azam Khan, who last featured for Pakistan against Afghanistan in March 2023, has also been named in the squad.

Considering the conditions in New Zealand, Pakistan has opted for six pace options; Aamir Jamal, Zaman Khan, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Abbas Afridi and Shaheen.

Naseem Shah, Ihsanullah and Shadab Khan will not be part of the squad due to injuries. Shan Masood, Mohammad Haris and Faheem Ashraf, who were part of Pakistan’s squad during the last bilateral series, miss out on the tour.

The players named in the squad will be assembling for a training camp, ahead of their departure. The camp will take place 28 December 2023 to 3 January 2024 in Lahore. Nine additional players have also been called up for the camp: Mohammad Haris, Arif Yaqoob, Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Amir Khan, Sajjad Ali Jnr, Shahab Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Ghulam and Omair Bin Yousuf.

Full squad: Shaheen Shah Afridi (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abbas Afridi, Azam Khan (wicket-keeper), Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Haseebullah (wicket-keeper), Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wicket-keeper), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sahibzada Farhan, Saim Ayub, Usama Mir, Zaman Khan.

Wahab Riaz, chief selector men’s cricket team, said: “It is very important for us to nurture our young talent as they have to represent Pakistan going forward. This is the best pool of players but we also want to build back-ups. We have to explore our new talent and see what kind of performances they are capable of producing. Going forward, we need to understand our back-up options in our player pool and also promote domestic performers.

“Mohammad Haris has been rested during this series. We are well aware of his capabilities and he is part of our plans going forward. Shan Masood is also part of our plans and he has been rested for this series. We will call him up if we require him to fill any gaps in the team.”

Full schedule:
1st T20 – 12 January 2024 at Eden Park, Auckland
2nd T20 – 14 January 2024 at Seddon Park, Hamilton
3rd T20 – 17 January 2024 at University Oval, Dunedin
4th T20 – 19 January 2024 at Hagley Oval, Christchurch
5th T20 – 21 January 2024 at Hagley Oval, Christchurch

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