Pakistan on Wednesday named uncapped bowlers Rumman Raees and Mohammad Nawaz in their squad for the World Twenty20 in India, while leaving out experienced paceman Umar Gul, the second highest wicket-taker in the shortest format. Opener Ahmed Shehzad was also left out.
Left-arm fast bowler Raees and all-rounder Nawaz were rewarded for their strong domestic form and the same 15-man squad will play in the February 24-March 6 Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
Only skipper Shahid Afridi (91) has taken more wickets than Gul (85) in Twenty20 Internationals but the 31-year-old pacer, who was part of the Twenty20 squad that lost 2-1 in New Zealand last month, has been struggling for form as well as fitness in recent times.
“The T20 team has been selected keeping in mind the conditions during Asia cup and World T20 and the recent performances of some players in domestic and A Team tours,” chief selector Haroon Rashid said in a statement.
“The team is a fine blend of experience and youth and the selectors believe that team will do well in both tournaments.”
Shehzad was also dropped from the squad with his place going to Khurram Manzoor, who has played 16 tests and seven one-day internationals but is yet to make his debut in Twenty20 international.
Batsmen Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed are the other players in the Afridi-led squad who have played one-dayers for Pakistan but are yet to represent them in the shortest format.
Towering left-arm paceman Mohammad Irfan, who was rested for the Twenty20 series in New Zealand, also returned to the squad for the March 8-April 3 tournament.
Government clearance awaited
Pakistan are open to playing next month’s World Twenty20 matches at a neutral venue if the government does not clear their tour of India over security concerns, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan has said.
Pakistan’s participation in the tournament depends on government clearance as there are specific threats to the team’s safety and it has already been communicated to the International Cricket Council (ICC), Khan told reporters in Lahore.
“We have told the ICC the decision is with the government and it’s not just us who have to decide,” Khan said on Tuesday.
“We need to understand that there are specific Pakistan-oriented security threats and we are concerned, hence (we) involved the government.”
Majority-Muslim Pakistan and India, who have a Hindu majority, have fought three wars since becoming two separate countries in 1947 after independence from Britain.
Last month, Australia pulled out from the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh because of concerns over the safety and security of their squad after postponing a Test tour of the country in October for similar reasons.
“We didn’t say or propose playing the World T20 matches at neutral venue but someone at the ICC meeting said that if there are concerns over any extremist activity (at Pakistan matches) then neutral venues will be looked into,” Khan said.
“Since it’s an ICC event and not a bilateral series we have to play it but if the decision (by the government) is negative then maybe the ICC could say that our matches be held in neutral venues in Sri Lanka or United Arab Emirates, and we will be ready for that.”
The ICC and the Indian cricket board (BCCI) could not be immediately reached for comment.
Pakistan have hosted all their international matches in the United Arab Emirates since a bus carrying the Sri Lanka team was attacked by gunmen in Lahore in 2009.
Pakistan umpire Aleem Dar was withdrawn from a series between India and South Africa in October after protesters stormed the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, demanding his removal.
Squad: Shahid Afridi (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Nawaz, Khurram Manzoor, Rumman Raees