The dark days for out-of-favour wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal seem to be a thing of the past as the Pakistan selectors included him in the 16-man squad for the six-match One-Day International (ODI) series against New Zealand.
Akmal was one of three cricketers sidelined due to their alleged involvement with bookmakers and while the wicket-keeper got the nod from the PCB, Shoaib Malik and Danish Kaneria were ignored yet again.
Akmal has not been able to make a comeback to the national squad after the tour of England where he was also dropped for a Test after a poor performance behind the stumps.
A hernia operation kept him on the sidelines for the UAE series against South Africa and was overlooked for the Twenty20 and Test series in New Zealand before the PCB-formed Integrity Committee cleared his name for selection.
“It’s a great feeling to be back in the side,” said Akmal. “I am enjoying my current form [in the Quaid Trophy] but playing an international series will be a big challenge for me ahead of the World Cup this year.
“I would like to thank the selectors who have given me the opportunity to prove myself. Playing against New Zealand is always a tough task but it’s a good thing because it gives you a chance to improve on your weaknesses before an important assignment such as the World Cup.”
Yousuf overlooked again
While Akmal made his comeback, the selectors once again overlooked veteran batsman Mohammad Yousuf over fitness issues.
Yousuf is currently involved in the Bangladesh league and has been included in the 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup but is unlikely to make the final cut.
Yousuf retired from international cricket following the indefinite ban placed on him in the aftermath of the Australian debacle but was recalled to the side on the tour of England when Pakistan desperately needed experience.
Afridi retained as
The PCB has also retained under-fire Shahid Afridi as the ODI captain after much deliberation given Pakistan’s dismal run-of-form in the format and Afridi’s poor performance.
The flamboyant all-rounder has been facing heavy criticism from former cricketers and the PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt recently refused to name him as captain for the World Cup.
Misbah appointed vice-captain
Test captain Misbahul Haq, who played the first two ODIs against South Africa in the UAE but was dropped afterwards, has also been included in the squad as vice-captain.
Misbah made his comeback to the national squad after being named the Test captain despite his performance being less-than-convincing during the year.
Ahmed Shehzad’s brief cameos in New Zealand has earned him a place as well after playing all three Twenty20s against New Zealand with a top score of 54 and a strike-rate of over 150.
World Cup squad still not named
Despite no ODIs to be played between now and the ICC’s deadline for naming the final 15 for the World Cup (January 16), the PCB refrained from announcing its final squad for the event, with the board’s chairman insisting on naming it on the deadline day.
“The board needs to ponder over things before naming the final 15 and it can’t just shortlist the squad right now,” Ijaz Butt told The Express Tribune. “The media should let us do our job instead of criticising the board.”
However, according to officials, the delay in naming the squad as well as the captain was to put pressure on the outspoken captain Afridi.
The all-rounder had been critical of Pakistan’s preparation for the mega event, especially given the delay in naming the preliminary squad.
With Misbah named as Afridi’s deputy, the PCB has given out a strong message for Afridi to refrain from criticising the board in public or face the axe.
Zaheer questions Afridi’s appointment
Former leg-spinner Abdul Qadir hailed the 16-man squad and called it a
“complete package” ahead of the World Cup while
former captain Zaheer Abbas also praised the selected team but questioned the move to retain Afridi as captain.
“The squad looks good, it has competitive players in all position but Afridi should not have been made the captain,” said Abbas.
Pakistan will play the series opener in Wellington on January 22 after the two-match Test series that finishes on January 19.
Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Abdul Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Tanvir Ahmed, Ahmed Shehzad
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2011.
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