Younis returns to ODI fold for New Zealand series

Source: Published in Sports on Monday, December 1, 2014

As widely anticipated Younis Khan returned on Sunday to the Pakistan side for the upcoming One-day International series against New Zealand after the senior batsman was controversially overlooked for the preceding three one-dayers against Australia in the United Arab Emirates-

The national selection committee, headed by Moin Khan, has included Younis in a 16-man squad for the first two one-day fixtures against the Black Caps in Dubai on Dec 8 and Sharjah on Dec 12.

The selectors also announced a 14-member squad, skippered by all-rounder Shahid Afridi, for the two back-to-back Twenty20 Internationals in Dubai on Thursday and Friday.

It seems that the selectors have kept their options open for the World Cup selection by opting to pick the one-day party for the opening two matches.

However, the omission of doughty batsman Fawad Alam is quite mindboggling. Well-placed sources told Dawn that the left-hander was advised by a cricket board official to prepare himself to travel for the forthcoming matches against the Kiwis.

Inevitably Fawad, who had returned to his hometown Karachi while anticipating his inclusion in the Pakistan team, missed the ongoing Quaid-i-Azam Trophy Gold League against SNGPL that started from Sunday in Abbottabad.

The 29-year-old had been one of the leading performers in the first-class championship with 521 runs in six matches at 74.42 with a double century under his belt.

Earlier this year Fawad retur­ned with a bang to the national side with a couple of fine knocks during the Asia Cup in Bangla­desh, including an unbeaten 114 in the final against Sri Lanka.

If the selectors continue to disregard form players, then they have not done justice since an underperforming Umar Akmal has been retained and Nasir Jamshed has been recalled.

While commenting on the selections, Moin said through a PCB media release that the squads have been picked after the fitness and performances of players were given consideration.

“This is our final opportunity to test all our potential players before the World Cup. That is why we have tried to induct all our fit players in contention for a slot. This is also pretty much the last opportunity for the players to perform and cement their places for the mega event.

“Both squads are well-balanced, with a decent blend of in-form batsmen and good all-rounders, with the bowling attack a potent mix of pace and spin combinations.“Quite a few players have been included either after returning from injury or on the basis of current form.”

The chief selector completely overlooked the fact that Umar Akmal had a dreadful domestic season since returning after the Australia matches. In six matches for SNGPL, he had mustered just 146 runs in 11 innings at a measly return of 13.27.

Nasir, who last played against South Africa over a year ago, hasn’t been in the best of form either as his tally of 126 runs (avg 20.66) in four Gold League games for National Bank.

The selectors, however, has decided to reward Sarfraz Ahmed with his maiden selection in T20 squad. It could mean that Umar Akmal is no longer the ‘first choice’ wicket-keeper in the shortest format as well after Sarfraz ousted him behind the stumps from the one-dayers against Australia in October.

Seasoned seamer Umar Gul, who has been away from the Pakistan side since the ICC World Twenty20 last April, makes a comeback after bowling almost 156 overs for Habib Bank during the Quaid Trophy Silver League event to prove his match fitness.

Also returning to the fray is Wahab Riaz, the left-armer who sustained a knee injury during the second ODI against Australia on Oct 10. He bowled 68 overs in two matches for National Bank.

But Sohaib Maqsood, touted as a certainty for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, has been sidelined through injury. The 27-year-old right-handed batsman suffered a wrist fracture during Pakistan ‘A’s visit to the UAE last month and has not played since.

Of the ODI squad picked for the Australia series, besides Shoaib and Fawad, missing are Junaid Khan, Umar Amin, Sami Aslam, Raza Hasan and Anwar Ali with their spots taken up by Younis, Nasir, Haris Sohail, Umar Gul and Bilawal Bhatti.

From the T20 team missing from the Australia series are Umar Amin, Sohaib and Bilawal and replaced by Haris, Umar Gul and Sarfraz.

The 25-year-old Haris Sohail, who has figured in just four ODIs and a T20 in 2013, was a member of the Test squad against both Australia and New Zealand but the talented left-hander was not considered for selection for all five Tests that Pakistan played over the past five weeks.

The remaining three ODIs against New Zealand are scheduled for Sharjah (Dec 14) and Abu Dhabi (Dec 17 and 19).


Twenty20: Shahid Afridi (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Awais Zia, Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Irfan, Raza Hasan, Saad Nasim, Sarfraz Ahmed (wicket-keeper), Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz.

ODI: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Bilawal Bhatti, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Sarfraz Ahmed (wicket-keeper), Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan, Zulfiqar Babar.

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