Pakistan tour England for ODIs and T20Is before heading off to the West Indies for T20Is and Tests.
Following the conclusion of the Pakistan Super League’s (PSL 2021) Abu Dhabi leg, Pakistan’s national sides have flown to England for a white-ball tour before eventually touching down in the Caribbean for a month-long trip. With the final rituals of PSL 2021 complete, it’s time for Team Pakistan to embark on its upcoming journey. Alongside that, the country’s focus is now on the affairs of the national team and, especially, the issues plaguing different aspects of the team combinations.
While there has not been a host of changes to the Pakistan squads from their recent tour of Africa, Mohammad Wasim has brought in some new faces. In this article, we’ll reflect on the changes made in the squads and see what the incoming players offer to the team in different formats.
Pakistan have decided not to tinker a whole lot with their red-ball setup. They have gone in with the same core of players that brought them recent successes at home against South Africa and away in Zimbabwe. The only two exclusions from their squad against Zimbabwe are Salman Ali Agha and Tabish Khan. While the former didn’t get a chance to debut for his country, Tabish made his long-awaited first appearance for Pakistan in the 2nd Test. However, the 36-year-old seasoned campaigner was largely ineffective, taking a solitary wicket in the whole game.
As Pakistan look to bolster their fast-bowling resources for their tour of West Indies, Tabish has been supplanted by the likes of Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah, both of whom have been added to the mix. Abbas has not featured in Pakistan’s whites since their series defeat in New Zealand earlier this year. However, in his seven-match stint with Hampshire in the County Championship this year, Abbas was exceptional. He is still the club’s 2nd-highest wicket-taker in the competition so far, with 27 scalps from 7 outings at a staggering average of 15.96. In light of his inspirited form with the Dukes, Abbas has been called back into Pakistan’s red-ball side.
The young fast-bowling prodigy, Naseem Shah, has also been summoned back to the international scene. The teenage sensation has drifted away from the limelight recently, owing to inconsistent performances and injury concerns. Yasir Shah, Pakistan’s 6th-highest wicket-taker in the format, has also been included in the squad subject to fitness. Yasir missed out on the Zimbabwe tour due to an ongoing rehabilitation process but will be raring to go come the Caribbean tour. He was pivotal to Pakistan’s maiden series victory in the West Indies in 2016 under Misbah-ul-Haq’s leadership, scalping 25 preys in 3 matches.
Test Squad for West Indies
Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (vc, wk), Abdullah Shafique, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Yasir Shah (subject to fitness), Zahid Mahmood.
Pakistan have named an 18-man ODI squad for the England tour. Danish Aziz, who made an underwhelming debut for Pakistan in the ODI series in South Africa, has been left out. The left-hander could only accumulate 12 runs from the 2 ODIs he featured in and was also below par in the 2 T20Is that he played. Consequently, he has been dropped from Pakistan’s white-ball squads ahead of the upcoming tours.
Meanwhile, Saud Shakeel, who was ruled out of the South Africa ODIs due to a leg injury, has been introduced back into the international setup. He averages 46 in List A cricket after 67 matches and is also part of Pakistan’s Test squad, a spot he has earned following a highly impressive run in Pakistan’s first-class circuit. Salman is another batsman emerging from Pakistan’s domestic cricket setup whose performances have been rewarded with an international call-up. Although he has been dropped from the red-ball side, Salman will be part of Pakistan’s ODI side in England and the West Indies.
Among the players to make a comeback into the ODI squad is Haris Sohail. The elegant left-hander played a crucial role in the 2019 World Cup with some fine middle-order knocks. However, he was dropped after struggles in Tests and fitness issues. Still, his numbers stand out, with him averaging more than 50 and striking at 90+ in ODIs since 2019. Pakistan will be desperate for him to remain injury-free and available for the middle-order after the South Africa disaster.
On the T20I front, Pakistan have decided to do away with the non-performers in their middle-order. Earlier, before they toured Africa, they snubbed the likes of Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, and Khushdil Shah. Now they have dropped the underperforming Asif Ali from the shortest format given his flimsy returns. He has batted thrice for Pakistan in T20Is since the start of this year, scoring merely 13 runs.
Instead, Pakistan have brought in the hard-hitting prodigy, Azam Khan, into the T20I mix. Boasting some uncanny strength, Azam is renowned for his ball-striking ability and his ultra-aggressive approach. His numbers suggest that he can be a possible solution to Pakistan’s middle-order woes. Azam has the highest strike rate in T20s for all Pakistan players, with a minimum of 500 runs since 2019. The 22-year old’s scoring rate in the middle overs is also the highest among Pakistan batsmen since 2019 - striking at almost 160 and hitting almost 24% of the balls he faces for boundaries.
A late addition to the white ball squads is the PSL Man of the Tournament, Sohaib Maqsood. While Haider Ali was in the original squads, he missed out after a breach of the biosecure bubble in the UAE during the final stages of PSL 6. Maqsood replaces him on the back of some rich form in limited-overs cricket. Since 2020, the tall right-hander is averaging almost 40 in T20 cricket while striking at 160 – almost unheard of numbers in Pakistan cricket.
White-Ball Squads for England and West Indies
ODIs: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan (vc), Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Usman Qadir.
T20Is: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan (vc), Arshad Iqbal, Azam Khan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sharjeel Khan, Sohaib Maqsood, Usman Qadir.
Pakistan’s tours of England and West Indies – Schedule
1st ODI, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff (July 8)
2nd ODI, Lord’s, London (July 10)
3rd ODI, Edgbaston, Birmingham (July 13)
1st T20I, Trent Bridge, Nottingham (July 16)
2nd T20I, Headingley, Leeds (July 18)
3rd T20I, Old Trafford, Manchester (July 20)
1st T20I, Kensington Oval, Barbados (July 27)
2nd T20I, Kensington Oval, Barbados (July 28)
3rd T20I, Providence Stadium, Guyana (July 31)
4th T20I, Providence Stadium, Guyana (Aug 1)
5th T20I, Providence Stadium, Guyana (Aug 3)
1st Test, Sabina Park, Jamaica (Aug 12 – Aug 16)
2nd Test, Sabina Park, Jamaica (Aug 20 – Aug 24)