With the ICC World Cup 2019 getting underway in England on May 30, Pakistani selectors have finally woken up and are now beginning to think about their ODI line-up for the quadrennial spectacle.
Pakistan might be the number one team in the Twenty20- format but their ODI fortunes have really slumped since their surprise title-winning triumph in the ICC Champions Trophy in England in 2017.
That’s why the 16-man team announced by chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq on Wednesday hardly comes across as a lineup that could go all the way in the World Cup.
In fact it is even unlikely to give hosts South Africa a run for their money in the five-match One-day International series which gets underway in Port Elizabeth from January 19.
The selectors have recalled pacer Mohammad Amir, encouraged by his return to form after a series of disappointing performances last year. Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan has also been brought back. Seam-bowling allrounder Hussain Talat and top-order batsman Shan Masood, who are both uncapped in ODI cricket, have also been included in the squad.
Asif Ali and Junaid Khan, who were part of the ODI squad for the New Zealand series in the UAE, have been left out while Haris Sohail is recovering from a knee injury.
Since the Champions Trophy final in June 2017, Amir has played only 10 ODIs, managing just three wickets at an average of 100.66. Amir, though, showed excellent form in the first two Tests in South Africa, picking up eight wickets at an average of 23.87.
“Amir’s good performance in the Test series not only made him an automatic selection, but also helped us in the decision to rest Abbas,” Inzamam said.
He clarified that Junaid was left out because of “fitness issues” while Asif was dropped after scoring 9 in the only ODI he played against New Zealand. Despite smashing a 33-ball 80 for Cape Town Blitz in the 20-over Mzansi Super League in South Africa and then hitting a 62-ball 97 not out for Islamabad in the National T20 Cup, Asif was omitted.
“Junaid Khan has not been considered for this tour because we feel he has to work more on his bowling since the fitness issues that he had cut short his series against New Zealand.
“Asif Ali has been dropped due to an inconsistent and below-par performance. In his place, we have decided to give Hussain Talat an opportunity to show his mettle and skills. He is a good left-handed batsman, who can also bowl.”
Talat, who was Asif’s team-mate in the MSL, though, was rewarded for his good performances for the Pakistan emerging team in the 50-over tournament and the National T20 Cup. He had struck a match-winning 116 off 109 balls against UAE in Karachi in December last year. He followed it with 149 runs and six wickets in four matches in the domestic T20 tournament. Talat has been earmarked as an exciting talent from the 2017 PSL, when he cracked a 39-ball 56 for Islamabad United.
Rizwan, who had last played an ODI in January 2017, was also rewarded for fine run with the emerging team as well as the A team. He is the second wicketkeeper in the squad, behind captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi and Usman Khan form the seam attack along with the recalled Amir while legspinner Shadab Khan, who is now fit to play the third Test in Johannesburg and left-arm spinner Imad Wasim are the only frontline spin options.
Shan, who wasn’t initially in the fray for the Test series now finds himself in the ODI squad as well. He will be vying for a role in the middle order that includes Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz.
The five-match series starts next Friday, followed by matches in Durban (January 22), Centurion (January 25), Johannesburg (January 27), and Cape Town (January 30).