Mohammad Hafeez’s international career hangs in the balance after the allrounder was left out of Pakistan’s Asia Cup squad. The 37-year old, who was part of the ODI squad for Pakistan’s bilateral series against Zimbabwe, did not feature in any of those matches, and it appears he has fallen down the pecking order of late. Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, however, said that Hafeez was still part of Pakistan’s World Cup plans.
“Hafeez is a part of the 20-22 players that we are considering for the World Cup,” he said. “Shan Masood is also a part of it. Hafeez is a good player and now he can bowl as well. But, we have other options now. There is much more cricket after the Asia Cup. At this moment, we are trying other options.”
Pakistan have gone for a pace-heavy lineup; no fewer than six seamers feature in the 16-man squad. Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi and Junaid Khan will all travel to the UAE as competition for places in that department heats up. As a result, Yasir Shah, who was a surprise inclusion for the series in Zimbabwe, misses out. Mickey Arthur believes the 6’6″ Shaheen, 18, is one of the most promising pacers to come out of Pakistan, even comparing him to a young Mitchell Starc. He is yet to make his ODI debut.
Imad Wasim, whose fitness has constantly frustrated Pakistan’s backroom staff over the past year or so, finds himself out of the squad once more after failing fitness tests ahead of the squad announcement. The 29-year old was the only player from the 18-man preliminary squad to have failed his fitness test on Monday, and was given another chance earlier today, only to fall short again.
“We have a clear stance that only those players who pass the fitness tests should be selected,” Inzamam said. “Those who are unable to do so are provided two to three chances. Imad was also provided those chances, but he failed. He has performed for Pakistan when he has played and he would have been a good addition to the side. But, we are not going to compromise on our stance related to the fitness.”
Imad initially dropped out of the limited-overs side last year due to a knee injury, but is now yet to play an international match in any format for Pakistan this year, with Mohammad Nawaz appearing to have taken his slot as the first-choice spin-bowling allrounder. Imad was named captain of Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League earlier this year, a franchise coached by Mickey Arthur, and most recently played for the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean Premier League last month.
Mildly surprising was the inclusion of opener Shan Masood. While the left-hander has been in glorious limited-overs form domestically, with three centuries and five half-centuries in his last ten List A matches, Masood was often seen as a Test match specialist, particularly since Pakistan appeared to have finally settled on a limited-overs opening pair in Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq. He is yet to make his ODI debut, and injury had ruled Masood out of Test commitments this year too, with the 28-year old having played the last of his 12 Test matches against Sri Lanka in October 2017.
There are no other surprises in what is unquestionably a full-strength squad. Asif Ali was retained after impressing in Zimbabwe, while Haris Sohail was perhaps slightly more fortunate to find a place in the squad, having not played any of the ODIs in Zimbabwe. With Hafeez out, Shoaib Malik may be expected to shoulder more bowling responsibility, particularly if Nawaz and Sohail, who can also serve as spin-bowling options, do not play.
Pakistan begin their Asia Cup campaign against a qualifier on September 16, before they round out their group against India on September 19. (ESPNCricinfo)