PCB unveils squads for Asia Cup, Afghan Series

LAHORE-Inzamam-ul-Haq, the head of Pakistan’s national men’s selection committee, declared the line-ups for the upcoming ACC Men’s Asia Cup and the One-Day International series against Afghanistan. The selections carry strategic considerations for each encounter.
The national team’s preparations for the challenges ahead are evident as an 18-player squad gears up to face Afghanistan in Sri Lanka from August 22 to 26. This contingent will be pruned to 17 players for the commencement of the Asia Cup, set to ignite from the Multan Cricket Stadium on August 30 with an opening match between Pakistan and Nepal.
Tayyab Tahir, Faheem Ashraf, and Saud Shakeel have secured their places in the Afghanistan series roster. Notably, Shan Masood and Ihsanullah, part of the squad that contested against New Zealand in the five ODIs of April and May, did not make the cut this time. Faheem’s return to the lineup after a two-year hiatus enhances the squad’s equilibrium, as his capabilities as a fast-bowling all-rounder add a new dimension. His most recent participation in this format dates back to Pakistan’s July 2021 three-match series against England.
Tayyab Tahir seizes his second ODI call-up, following his initial appearance before the New Zealand series in January. This advancement comes on the heels of his standout performance in the Pakistan Cup 2022-23, where he emerged as the leading run-scorer. Notably, he showcased his mettle by crafting an exceptional century, orchestrating Pakistan Shaheens’ commanding 128-run victory against India A in the ACC Men’s Emerging Cup final.
Saud Shakeel, although not part of the Asia Cup squad, contributes his experience from five ODIs, the last of which transpired in March 2022 against Australia. His presence in the victorious chase against Australia, securing six wickets in hand, underscores his utility. Meanwhile, Shan Masood’s absence is attributed to a sequence of low scores, whereas Ihsanullah is presently undergoing a rehabilitation regimen under the supervision of the PCB’s medical panel, addressing an elbow injury.
The team will congregate in Hambantota on August 18, as players in Pakistan embark on their journey a day prior. A three-day training camp at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore is scheduled for August 14-16. Additionally, players involved in the Lankan Premier League and The Hundred will directly join the squad in Sri Lanka on August 18.
The culmination of the squad formation was the result of comprehensive consultations involving the national men’s selection committee, comprising not only Inzamam-ul-Haq but also cricket stalwarts like Mickey Arthur, Grant Bradburn, and Hassan Cheema. Their deliberations included input from Pakistan’s captain, Babar Azam. 
Acknowledging the selection choices, Inzamam said, “Yes, we have given preference to an all-rounder, if you see the full squad, there was no all-rounder. So Faheem Ashraf is such an all-rounder, whose performances in the HBL PSL and other events is proof of his ability as a fine all-rounder. Shan Masood has performed very well in the last season. Despite the presence of Saud Shakeel and Abdullah Shafique, Shan is not completely out, he is also with us and in our plans.” 
To a query regarding working with Grant Bradburn and Mickey Arthur, the chief selector replied: “I have worked with Mickey before for three and a half years. So, working with them is not new to me, Bradburn was also there in the past, not as head coach but as fielding coach. So, these names, Bradburn and Mickey Arthur are not new, they have worked with me before and hopefully, we will work together for the betterment of Pakistan team.”

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at azharmasood786@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt