As expected, Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi was axed from the 15-man squad for the tour of Scotland and Ireland besides the ICC Champions Trophy, announced the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), after much deliberation late last night.
Out-of-form batsman Umar Akmal was the other notable exclusion as the selection committee made four changes in the squad that was defeated by South Africa in March.
Experienced campaigner Younus Khan’s name was already missing when the 30-man preliminary squad was announced earlier, with Umar Amin replacing the former captain.
Upcoming fast-bowlers Asad Ali and Ehsan Adil were rewarded for their impressive show at the President’s Cup one-day tournament and were added to the pace battery that misses the name of Umar Gul — ruled out due to injury.
The selection panel, headed by Iqbal Qasim along with the team management including captain Misbahul Haq and head coach Dav Whatmore, weighed various aspects before finalising the squad.
Before making a final decision on Afridi’s snub, the meeting, which also featured PCB’s director Intikhab Alam, held a lengthy meeting that delayed the squad announcement for a couple of hours.
PCB Chairman Zaka Ashraf also held a lengthy meeting with the selectors before the announcement was made, according to a board official.
Afridi, the most accomplished Pakistan all-rounder in ODIs with 7201 runs and 348 wickets from 354 matches, was under the scanner ever since the selectors met the team management last week.
Pakistan are due to play two ODIs against Ireland (May 17 and 19) before featuring in a couple of matches against Scotland (May 23 and 26) before the Champions Trophy starts in England from June 6.
End of the Road for Afridi in ODIs?
The all-rounder was recalled for the ODI series in South Africa after being dropped for the series against India following a poor run in the format.
Qasim had made it clear at the time that the South Africa series was the last chance for the star all-rounder.
However, Afridi managed 126 runs from four innings, including an 88-run knock that also helped Pakistan win the match, but remained wicketless throughout the series.
He also failed to impress at the President’s Cup, managing just 70 runs and taking three wickets.
But the chief selector insisted that it was not the end of the road for Afridi in the format.
“Afridi’s ODI career is not over,” said the chief selector. “He can make a comeback by regaining his form. A player gets selected when he performs. We wouldn’t have dropped him if he had performed well in the domestic tournament. It’s a must for a player to perform at this level after he has failed in international cricket.”
The chief selector added that the team was named after a unanimous decision by the selection committee.
“Our pool [at the Champions Trophy] is tough but we are hoping for good results from the selected squad. We have a reputation of playing to our potential in ICC events.”
Meanwhile, Kamran Akmal, who came under the scanner after the South Africa series, got another lifeline and was preferred over Mohammad Rizwan on the basis of a good batting show at the President’s Cup.
The likes of Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan have also made it a pace-heavy squad.
Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq also retained their places in the Misbahul Haq-led team.
Misbahul Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Imran Farhat, Asad Shafiq, Abdul Rehman, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (wicket-keeper), Umar Amin, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Saeed Ajmal, Asad Ali, Ehsan Adil, Wahab Riaz
Woodhill gets temporary role
Ending a lengthy wait, the PCB finally announced former New Zealand assistant coach Trent Woodill as the national batting coach.
However, Woodhill, who is currently associated with Delhi Daredevils, has been given a temporary role with the Pakistan national team as he will accompany the players for upcoming tours of Scotland and Ireland besides the ICC Champions Trophy. An extension of his contract will be based on his performance.
Interestingly, it has been learnt that the 42-year-old Australian is unlikely to join the team in Abbottabad for the training camp and will fly to the UK directly. PCB Director Intikhab Alam said Woodhill has vast experience as he was associated with various outfits including Big Bash sides.
The board started looking for a batting coach last November with various Pakistan legends including Zaheer Abbas and Inzamamul Haq also being tipped to get the job.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2013.