Former captain Shahid Afridi, who was dropped from the tour of India after a string of poor performances last year, regained his place in the format for the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series against South Africa.
The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) selection committee announced the squads for the Twenty20 and ODI series against South Africa yesterday that will start on March 1 – following the third and final Test in Centurion.
It was a hectic day for the Iqbal Qasim-led selection committee that assembled at the PCB’s headquarters in Lahore yesterday first for a telephonic meeting with the team management in South Africa and then with the board’s chairman Zaka Ashraf before announcing the team.
According to officials close to the selection committee, initially the selectors were reluctant to include Afridi in the ODI squad but changed their mind after final discussions with the team management.
“The captain [Misbahul Haq] supported Afridi’s inclusion in ODIs,” an official told The Express Tribune.
Afridi’s return to the format is debatable as the all-rounder hardly did anything to justify his selection after the sequence of poor performances last year both with the bat and ball.
Afridi will have to perform: Qasim
The PCB’s chief selector, while giving justification for the former captain’s selection, said that the series will be a do-or-die chance for the star all-rounder to revive his one-day career.
“It’s the last chance for Afridi and he will have to perform,” said the chief selector while countering questions regarding his selection.
Qasim, a former Test spinner, said Pakistan will need a leg-spinner for South Africa for which Afridi was deemed appropriate.
“He has variety in his bowling and his fitness was assessed in recent matches against Afghanistan,” said the chief selector while referring to Pakistan A matches against visitors.
Meanwhile, the selectors dropped Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Anwar Ali and Zulfiqar Babar, who toured with Pakistan’s ODI squad in India.
In-form Asad Shafiq, who missed the tour due to an injury, returned to the format along with Abdur Rehman. Former captain Shoaib Malik, who was retained for ODIs in India, also consolidated his place while Mohammad Irfan has also been recalled in the 16-man squad.
Experienced fast-bowler Umar Gul has been retained along with Wahab Riaz.
To a query for ignoring another fast-bowler Aizaz Cheema, the chief selector said they preferred Riaz over him as he was a ‘better’ option.
Tanvir axed from Twenty20 squad
Meanwhile, the selection committee decided against making many change in the Twenty20 squad as it made just a single change in the squad that played against India.
Left-arm seamer Sohail Tanvir has been dropped, paving the way for Riaz to retain his place in the format. Babar was retained in the 15-man Mohammad Hafeez-led side along with fast-bowler Asad Ali.
South Africa name both squads
Middle-order batsman Faf du Plessis has been appointed as the full-time captain of South Africa’s T20 International team after AB de Villiers requested to stand down from his position.
The announcement was made while South Africa’s announcement for ODI and T20 International teams against Pakistan.
After the appointment South Africa now have three different captains for all three formats with Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers leading the Tests and ODI sides respectively.
Meanwhile, veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis has been rested from both the ODI and T20 teams.
Hashim Amla was not named in the T20 squad as he wanted a break to concentrate more on the other two formats. Dale Steyn was also rested for T20s.
Misbahul Haq (Captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq, Younas Khan, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (wicket-keeper), Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, M Irfan, Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz, Umer Gul, Imran Farhat, Abdur Rehman
Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (wicket-keeper), Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, M Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Ahmad Shahzad, Umer Amin, Zulfiqar Baber, Asad Ali, Junaid Khan
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.