Chief Selector Mohammad Wasim has included some relatively newer names in the squads touring South Africa and Zimbabwe. We take a look at their respective paths to the top level
Pakistan Cricket Board Chief Selector Mohammad Wasim announced the squad for Pakistan’s tour of South Africa and Zimbabwe, and as many as five new additions have been made to the limited-overs and Test squads.
The first notable newcomer is 6ft 2in-tall fast-bowler Shahnawaz Dahani. Dahani really came into the limelight when he made his T20 debut as he was picked by Multan Sultans for PSL 6. Before the PSL got postponed, Dahani was the joint-2nd-highest wicket-taker in the tournament. He took nine wickets in four matches at an average of 12.55 and an economy rate of 10.33. Furthermore, he impressed one and all with his pace, regularly bowling above 140kph and breaching 145kph on several occasions, too.
However, Mohammad Wasim emphasized that Dahani’s prolific Quaid-e-Azam Trophy returns were the primary reason for his call-up. Playing in his first full season at the First Class level, the right-arm pacer finished with 26 wickets in 7 matches, the 5th-highest among fast-bowlers in the 2020/21 season. Bowling with pace and aggression, the youngster caught the eye of many cricketing enthusiasts. He bowled some long spells and showed a real aptitude for troubling batsmen with the short ball in particular.
The second newcomer to the Test squad is Zahid Mahmood, hailing from Dadu. The skiddy leg-spinner replaces the injured Yasir Shah who appears to be still undergoing rehab according to Mohammad Wasim (though he himself appears to have disputed that claim). Zahid is more than just a handy leg-spinner comprising an armory full of variations which enables him to trouble the batsmen more often than others. The leggie had a superb 2020/21 domestic season in all formats, which led to him getting shortlisted for the Domestic Cricketer of the Year award by the PCB. He picked 52 wickets in 10 matches in the 2020/21 season of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the third-highest overall, which led to his maiden call-up to the Test side.
Mohammad Wasim Jr
Three new names have also made it to the limited-overs squads. Mohammad Wasim Jr is a 19-year-old right-arm medium-fast bowler who hails from North Waziristan. Wasim first broke into the spotlight when he scored a blistering 55* off 19 balls along with 3 scalps in an Under-19 encounter against Kuwait in the Under-19 Asia Cup 2019.
After that, he enjoyed a prolific 2020/21 domestic season. He picked up 14 wickets in 5 matches in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy @ 21.43 and put in a couple of important batting performances, including hitting 3 sixes in 3 balls on one occasion and seeing out a draw on another. Moreover, he hit his maiden List A fifty in the Pakistan Cup. This led to his selection for Islamabad United in PSL 6 as an emerging player where he picked up 4 wickets. The youngster showed an impressive array of skills, bowling at 140kph+ and delivering some good yorkers at the death.
Joining Wasim in the squad is another tall right-arm fast-bowler from Swabi in the shape of Arshad Iqbal. Not only has Arshad represented Pakistan at the Under-19 World Cup 2018, but has also been impressive with his short stint for Karachi Kings since PSL 5. He has been the most impressive in the shortest format of the game, where he has taken 29 wickets in 20 matches at an average of 20.79.
Arshad bowled in the PSL with a very specific role given to him by Karachi Kings – that of a middle-overs specialist. After initial hiccups, the youngster excelled in that position, picking up wickets very regularly and impressing under pressure. Winning the domestic treble with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the PSL with Karachi Kings means he has won four trophies in just the past few months!
The last of the new-comers (but certainly not the least) is Saud Shakeel. Saud, like many others, also made his way up the ladder from the grassroots. He has played for Pakistan Under-19 in 2014-15 and has been a regular part of Sindh’s playing XI in the new domestic cricket structure. In 63 List A matches, Saud has scored 2347 runs at an impressive average of 46.01. He offers a like-for-like alternative to the dropped Haris Sohail as a middle-order batsman and part-time spinner.
Unlike many recent debutants in the Pakistan team, Saud has gone through the domestic cricket grind with more than 6 years experience at the domestic level. He has had a lot of time to develop and work hard on his game in First Class cricket and has shown results too. Having also captained Pakistan’s squad in the 2019 ACC Emerging Asia Cup, it is evident that the PCB has invested a lot in Saud. It will be interesting to see how and when the 25-year old gets a chance and whether he capitalizes on it. He will be representing the quality of Pakistan's domestic system, considering his journey from the grassroots level.