Pakistan cricket selectors have done what some hoped they were incapable of doing while others hoped they would not do: drop Shahid Afridi.
Afridi finally paid the price for his poor form this season – the former captain has scored just 182 runs in 16 One-Day Internationals (ODI) at an average of 15.16 while also taking 15 wickets at 43.13 – and failed to find a place in the 15-man squad for the 50-over format. He does, however, keeps his place in the Twenty20 squad despite having scored just 118 runs this year in 11 matches and taking just eight wickets.
There was good news for another former captain, Younus Khan, who made his comeback to the ODI squad after being dropped from the series against Australia in the UAE. Opener Imran Farhat, too, returned to the 50-over format but there was no place in either squad for all-rounder Abdul Razzaq despite his terrific form in the recently-concluded National Twenty20 Cup.
The axe also dropped on Imran Nazir, Yasir Arafat and Mohammad Sami while a good show in the domestic handed call-ups to Umer Amin, Mohammad Irfan and Asad Ali and also a Twenty20 recall to Ahmed Shahzad, who was the highest run-scorer in the domestic Twenty20 event. Junaid Khan was also included.
It was tough to drop Afridi: Qasim
Afridi’s omission from the ODI squad was on cards due to his poor form in recent months.
The experienced all-rounder also failed to impress selectors at the Twenty20 Cup, scoring just 75 runs and taking seven wickets from five matches.
“It was a tough decision to drop Afridi from ODI squad,” said Iqbal Qasim after announcing the squads. “He’s a great player and has contributed a lot to the Pakistan team. The decision has been taken in the team’s interest. I am hopeful he will bounce back with a good show in the Twenty20s.
“The problem with Razzaq, however, is that he’s a player who should be in the playing-XI. If we can’t adjust him in the playing-XI then there’s no point having him in the squad. But this doesn’t mean his career is over. He will remain in contention until he continues playing cricket.”
Double birthday gift for Babar
The ODI squad also saw the return Wahab Riaz who grabbed a five-wicket haul in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against India in Mohali.
Meanwhile, left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar, who turned 34 yesterday, was handed a double birthday gift after being named in both squads. Babar has been a consistent performer in domestic cricket and has 62 wickets under his belt in the President’s Trophy.
An injury to young Raza Hasan led to his selection in the team, according to officials close to selection committee.
“I am ready to launch my career despite being 34,” Babar had said before his selection. “I have the example of Saeed Ajmal who started very late but has been very successful.”
On the tour, Pakistan will play two Twenty20s from December 25 besides three ODIs that take place from December 30.
‘Afridi not planning ODI retirement’
Meanwhile, Afridi has no plans to retire from ODIs despite his exclusion from the squad, according to a close aide of the former captain.
“He will never retire this way,” the aide told The Express Tribune. “Afridi wants to quit on his own terms and not after being dropped from team. Right now, he will focus on doing well in the Twenty20s and will continue the hard work and make a comeback to the ODI squad.”
Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq, Imran Farhat, Umar Akmal, Haris Sohail, Kamran Akmal, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Anwar Ali, Zulfiqar Babar
Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Asad Ali, Zulfiqar Babar
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2012.