Pakistan have called up uncapped wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Haris and allrounder Asif Afridi to their white-ball squads for the upcoming home series against Australia.The selectors have largely retained the squad that faced West Indies at home last December. Fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain, whose bowling action was recently found to be illegal, makes way for Hasan Ali, who has played just one white-ball international for Pakistan since he went for 0 for 44 in his four overs during the T20 World Cup semi-final against Australia last year in Dubai.
Haris also displayed strong form in the 50-over Pakistan Cup last year, scoring 289 runs in eight innings at an average of 41.28 and strike rate of over 100, during Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s run to the title. This is Haris’ second call-up to the Pakistan squad after having made the cut for the New Zealand series, which was eventually postponed last year.
Haris’ selection effectively shuts the door on Sarfaraz Ahmed who has been part of the larger squad over the past two years as a back-up for Mohammad Rizwan. Rohail Nazir was also on the selectors’ radar previously, but Haris has now got the nod.
Asif Afridi, too, has been rewarded for impressing in the PSL. The 35-year-old took eight wickets in five matches for Multan Sultans at an economy rate of 6.52. He has been picked as a cover for the first-choice Mohammad Nawaz who missed a part of the PSL with a foot injury. Nawaz had also missed the ongoing Benaud-Qadir Trophy and his participation in the following white-ball series is subject to clearing a fitness test.
The selectors have put faith in Haider Ali despite his poor returns in PSL 2022: 152 runs in nine innings at an average of 21.71 and strike rate of 116.03.
Pakistan have named a 20-man squad for the ODI leg and a 17-man squad for the T20Is, with Abdullah Shafique, Saud Shakeel and Imam-ul-Haq being excluded for the shortest format. The white-ball players will assemble in Lahore on March 22 and will undergo a three-day in-room isolation before linking up with the squad.
The tense political climate in Pakistan’s capital could cause the PCB to relocate the white-ball series against Australia out of Rawalpindi, with Lahore likely to be the new venue. With Prime Minister Imran Khan set to face a no-confidence vote, Rawalpindi and its twin city Islamabad are gearing up to become the focal point of political gatherings led by both the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the opposition-formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
As of now, Rawalpindi is scheduled to host three ODIs on March 29, March 31 and April 2, and a one-off T20I on April 5. The PCB has confirmed it is monitoring the situation and that it has “a contingency plan in place”, which will only be applied if advised by experts.
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