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By Sohail Ali

LAHORE, Nov 11 (APP): Pakistan today announced a 35-player squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand from which the national men’s and Shaheens squads will be selected.

The players, along with 20-member players support personnel, will depart for Lincoln on 23 November where they will spend the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, said chief selector and head coach while announcing the squad here on Wednesday at a news conference at Gadaffi stadium.

While the Shaheens schedule is yet to be confirmed by New Zealand Cricket, Pakistan men’s national team will play three T20Is on December 18, 20 and 22 and the ICC World Test Championship fixtures will be held in Mount Maunganui and Christchurch on December 26-30 and January 3-7 respectively.

Apart from the 35 players involved in pre-series intra-squad matches as part of their preparations, Pakistan men’s national team players not involved in international matches against New Zealand will be available for selection for the Shaheens’ matches against New Zealand A.

This means Test players not involved in the T20Is in the first half of the series against New Zealand will be available for selection for Shaheens, who are expected to be playing four-day matches against New Zealand A during that period. Likewise, when the national side is involved in the ICC World Test Championship matches against New-Zealand, national men’s team players not part of those matches will be available for selection for the Shaheens, who are expected to be involved in 20-over games against New Zealand A during those days.

While selecting the squads, chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq consulted the six Cricket Association head coaches, Shaheens head coach Ijaz Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq, head of international player development.

Babar Azam has been confirmed Pakistan captain in all formats. His vice-captain in Tests will be Mohammad Rizwan, while Shadab will be the vice-captain.

The PCB has also appointed Rohail Nazir as Shaheens’ captain with Haider Ali as his vice-captain. The two had performed these responsibilities at this year’s ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa earlier this year.

35-player squad is:
Openers (six): Abid Ali (Central Punjab/Lahore Qalandars), Abdullah Shafique (Central Punjab), Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars), Imam-ul-Haq (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi), Shan Masood (Soutern Punjab/Multan Sultans) and Zeeshan Malik (Northern)
Middle-order batsmen (11): Babar Azam (captain) (Central Punjab/Karachi Kings), Azhar Ali (Central Punjab), Danish Aziz (Sindh), Fawad Alam (Sindh), Haider Ali (Shaheens vice-captain, Northern/Peshawar Zalmi), Haris Sohail (Balochistan), Hussain Talat (Southern Punjab/Islamabad United), Iftikhar Ahmed (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings), Imran Butt (Balochistan), Khushdil Shah (Southern Punjab/Multan Sultans) and Mohammad Hafeez (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Peshawar Zalmi)
Wicketkeepers (three): Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain, Tests) (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings), Rohail Nazir (Shaheens captain, Northern/Multan Sultans) and Sarfaraz Ahmed (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators)
Spinners (five): Imad Wasim (Northern/Karachi Kings), Shadab Khan (vice-captain, T20Is) (Northern/Islamabad United), Usman Qadir (Central Punjab/Multan Sultans), Yasir Shah (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi) and Zafar Gohar (Central Punjab/Islamabad United)
Fast bowlers (10): Amad Butt (Balochistan/Islamabad United), Faheem Ashraf (Central Punjab/Islamabad United), Haris Rauf (Northern/Lahore Qalandars), Mohammad Abbas (Southern Punjab/Multan Sultans), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators), Mohammad Musa (Northern/Islamabad United), Naseem Shah (Central Punjab/Quetta Gladiators), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars), Sohail Khan (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators) and Wahab Riaz (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Peshawar Zalmi)
Pakistan head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq said : “These unprecedented Covid-19 times provide a unique opportunity to some of the most talented and best domestic performers to represent the national and Shaheens squads against a quality opposition such as New Zealand, gain valuable experience and exposure, and further improve their skills so that they can strengthen their claims for international call-ups.

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“This tour schedule has been designed in such a way that we play tough intra-squad matches in the lead up to international matches and compensate for the local oppositions. While the national side will be involved in one format, Shaheens will be in action in the other format. This means all the players will be busy and playing competitive cricket.”

“The matches in New Zealand are critical for us as we aim to improve our T20I rankings and also gain valuable points in the ICC World Test Championship. In this background and taking into consideration recent player performances, we have selected the best available players.

“I want to congratulate uncapped Amad Butt, Danish Aziz, Imran Butt and Rohail Nazir who have impressed the selectors with their form, technique, temperament and ability to secure places in the 35-player pool. However, these four players are amongst some other players who have been selected specifically for Shaheens as part of our strategy to build our bench strength.

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“There are three major omissions from the side that toured England. Asad Shafiq has been left out due to lack of form after he managed 510 runs in his last 15 innings, including a total of 67 runs in England. Asad is an experienced batsman and I am sure he will utilise this time to work harder on his game in the domestic first-class matches so that he, like Sarfaraz Ahmed, can reclaim his form and be back in contention for the upcoming Tests against South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Amir are not part of the white-ball matches as for this tour we have opted to invest, develop and focus on the promising and emerging players who are likely to be available to Pakistan for all formats.

“We have kept faith in Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz purely on the basis of their outstanding and consistent performances as well as the value they bring to the T20I squad.

“The ongoing domestic season has produced three highly impressive and consistent spinners in Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan and Zahid Mahmood.

Unfortunately, due to New Zealand government regulations as part of their Covid-19 travel requirements, we had to provide a provisional list of 45 players to New Zealand Cricket by 12 October and, as such, these players missed out because at that time, the National T20 Cup was ongoing while the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy had not commenced.

“However, the positive side is we are now developing a strong pool of top-quality spinners who will challenge each other for places in the national sides that, in turn, will help in the overall performances in the sides.”

Pakistan v New Zealand (in bracket are start times in Pakistan Standard Times):

18 Dec – 1st T20I, Eden Park, Auckland (1200 PST)
20 Dec – 2nd T20I, Seddon Park, Hamilton (1200 PST)
22 Dec – 3rd T20I, McLean Park, Napier (1200 PST)
26-30 Dec – 1st Test, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui (0400 PST)
3-7 Jan – 2nd Test, Hagley Oval, Christchurch (0400 PST)

Schedule of Shaheens vs New Zealand A will be announced as soon as it is confirmed by the NZC.