Pakistan’s selectors have displayed an unusual consistency in their ODI squad, retaining all players bar one involved in the New Zealand ODIs for their World Cup campaign. Fast bowler Tanvir Ahmed, who is part of the 16-man ODI squad in New Zealand, is the unlucky one, missing out.
In opting for continuity, the selectors have not picked the veteran Mohammad Yousuf, indicating that his career is all but over. And as had been widely expected, they have remarkably not named a captain or deputy so far, leaving open the possibility that Shahid Afridi, who has been the limited overs leader, may be replaced.
The 15-man squad is generally low on surprise, and given that Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Shoaib Malik, four key players, are not cleared for selection, almost picked itself. It is a fairly fresh one also; eight of the players have no previous World Cup experience.
The batting spots are shared by a mix of the old and new, with Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal the ones to keep an eye on, around Younis Khan. The presence of Misbah-ul-Haq will raise some eyebrows. He has only played two ODIs in 2010 and was dropped midway through Pakistan’s last ODI series against South Africa.
The bowling has considerable variety, with Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz expected to share the bulk of pace duties. Sohail Tanvir has a chance to resurrect his career after two injury-struck years. Much might depend on the spinners, with Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman providing contrasting support to the threat of Afridi.
Yousuf made the 30-man preliminary World Cup squad but hasn’t played a one-dayer since he was recalled for the series-decider against South Africa last November in Dubai and made only 3. Though he has played 281 ODIs for Pakistan, he scored only one half-century in 10 matches last year and his World Cup experiences have generally been poor: he has only two half-centuries in 13 career World Cup matches.
The situation with the captaincy has built up steadily over the last few weeks. There has been increasing speculation that Afridi may be removed, the board not pleased with his regular public statements, including criticisms of his own side. He was retained as ODI captain for the New Zealand ODIs but his personal performance in the last ten ODIs doesn’t help his case. He averages 20.9 with the bat and 48.7 with the ball. The move to name Misbah as vice-captain for the New Zealand ODIs is seen as a means of putting pressure on Afridi.
But before leaving for New Zealand, Afridi said he was not worried about the position. “I am not worried about the captaincy, it never worries me,” Afridi told reporters. “I have never run after the captaincy in my entire career. It is something for the cricket board to decide. If they feel I am the right man they will appoint me and if they don’t they will make someone else captain.
“I am a senior professional and I know what I have to do. I have to lead the team to win the series and perform well as player. I know our winning the series will be very important because if we win in New Zealand it will give us a boost for the World Cup.”
Squad: Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal (wk), Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Ahmed Shehzad