By Sohail Ali
LAHORE, Dec 06 (APP):Pakistan on Sunday announced an 18-player men’s national squad for the three T20Is against New Zealand to be played on 18, 20 and 22 December.
The squad was finalised by head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and captain Babar Azam in consultation with Pakistan Shaheens coach Ijaz Ahmed, who also locked his 16-player squad for the four-day match against New Zealand ‘A’ to be played in Whangarei from 17 December.
Both Pakistan and Pakistan Shaheens squads are scheduled to depart for Queenstown on Tuesday, 8 December, after completing their 14-day isolation period in Christchurch. In Queenstown, both the sides will stay in different hotels and train at different times and according to their match requirements.
On 14 December, Shaheens will travel to Whangarei, while Pakistan will head to Auckland on 15 December for the opening match of the three-match series.
For the New Zealand T20Is, Pakistan have recalled Hussain Talat and Sarfaraz Ahmed in the only changes from the side that defeated Zimbabwe 3-0 in November.
Hussain, who has replaced Pakistan Shaheens’ Zafar Gohar, played his last T20I against South Africa at Centurion in February 2019, while Sarfaraz Ahmed has reclaimed his spot from Rohail Nazir, who will captain Pakistan Shaheens against New Zealand ‘A’.
Fakhar Zaman had played in all the three T20Is against Zimbabwe but missed the New Zealand tour after failing to recover in time due to high fever.
Following the conclusion of the T20I series, Imad Wasim will depart for Australia on 23 December to play in Australia’s Big Bash League, while Mohammad Hafeez will leave for Pakistan on 24 December.
Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said : “I want to compliment my players and the management team for their patience, sacrifices and the hardships they have endured to ensure they not only lead the safe resumption of international cricket during the Covid-19 pandemic since the series in England but also try to give their best every time they step on the field.
“Top professional athletes require a certain environment to prepare so that they can perform at the minimum expected levels every time they represent their countries. While we completely respect and understand the New Zealand Government Laws, which have been put in place for the health and safety of their public, there is no denying the fact that the implementation of certain regulations has affected our athletes, both mentally and physically prior to an international series.
“Nonetheless, when we will leave the isolation facility in the next day or two, we will try to put all this behind us and focus on the challenge of facing New Zealand in both the formats. New Zealand are a formidable side in their conditions and their recent performances against the West Indies confirm why they are ranked second in Tests and just behind us in T20Is in sixth position.
“For the T20Is, we have retained the squad that has been playing together for some time. The squad comprises young, talented and high-performing players, who are determined and eager to make names for themselves and further cement their places in the side.
“New Zealand boasts some of the best cricket facilities, which are backed by supportive and appreciative crowds. I want my players to make optimum use of the upcoming opportunities by expressing themselves by playing fearlessly every time they take the field. All the players have our backing and support, and all they now need to show is how much believe, faith and trust they have in their own capabilities.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Test side players who will not be involved in the T20Is, will remain with Pakistan Shaheens to prepare for the two-Test series, which commences at the Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, on 26 December.
As part of their preparation for the four-day match against New Zealand A, which begins on 17 December, Shaheens will also play intra-squad practice matches in Queenstown.
Pakistan Shaheens coach Ijaz Ahmed said : “Apart from providing youngsters the opportunity to get some experience and exposure, the objective of Shaheens was to help the red-ball Pakistan men’s national team players prepare for the Tests by featuring in the pre-series matches against New Zealand ‘A’. Despite the disappointment of losing a four-day match, I am pleased that some of the top Pakistan Test players will be representing Shaheens against New Zealand ‘A’ in Whangarei, which will enhance the importance and profile of the match.
“The quarantine period was a tough one, something none of us had experienced before, but instead of reflecting on the tough times, we should now start focusing and thinking about playing and performing in international cricket because that is what we have come here for.
“We need to avail and cash in on every opportunity to hone our skills and try to improve as professional cricketers. There is no better place than New Zealand to achieve these career objectives as the country has some amazing and cricket-friendly playing conditions.”
Pakistan squad for New Zealand T20Is:
Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Musa Khan, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Qadir and Wahab Riaz.
Management team: Mansoor Rana (Manager), Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Shahid Aslam (assistant coach), Waqar Younis (bowling coach), Younis Khan (batting coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Ibrahim Badees (team and social media manager), Malang Ali (team masseur), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor), Talha Ejaz Butt (analyst), Col (retd) Usman Anwari (security manager) and Yasir Malik (strength & training coach).
Pakistan Shaheens for New Zealand ‘A’ four-day match:
Rohail Nazir (captain), Abid Ali, Amad Butt, Azhar Ali, Danish Aziz, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah, Zafar Gohar and Zeeshan Malik.
Management team: Ijaz Ahmed (manager and head coach), Mohtashim Rasheed (assistant manager & fielding coach), Rao Iftikhar (bowling coach), Hafiz Naeem (physiotherapist), Saboor Ahmed (trainer), Usman Hashmi (analyst) and Mohammad Imran Ali (masseur).