Pakistan cricket selectors dropped experienced all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez and misfiring opener Kamran Akmal from a 16-man squad named on Friday for a three-match Twenty20 series against a World XI side next month.
The series, to be played in Lahore and given international status by the International Cricket Council, is seen as an attempt to revive international cricket in Pakistan.
New Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) Chairman Najam Sethi, while addressing the media in Lahore last Monday, said the Punjab Government has assured the PCB that the team will be provided ‘presidential level’ security for the week-long tour.
The three-match series will commence from September 12, with the remaining two matches scheduled to take place on September 13 and September 15, at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
“The team have been selected keeping in mind the conditions and the recent performances of some players in the domestic and international tours,” said chief selector Inzamamul Haq.
Sarfraz Ahmad will lead the side also having services of all-rounders Faheem Ashraf, who was part of Pakistan’s ICC Champions Trophy-winning squad, and Aamer Yamin, and batsman Umar Amin who have been recalled by the selectors.
When asked why all matches will be played in Lahore, Sethi clarified: “No team is ready to play anywhere else other than Lahore.”
The rationale behind this decision stems from the successful organization of 2017 Pakistan Super League final in Lahore. Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan in 2015 was also hosted by Lahore, which laid the basis of a security case study used to attract international teams.
However, Sethi said that he wants international cricket to return to Karachi too.
“I will meet DG Rangers, Core Commander and CM Sindh when I visit Karachi [to discuss the security arrangements if the city is to host international matches],” said Sethi. “We will make sure international cricket returns to Pakistan soon. We have started receiving positive answers from teams.”
Pakistan squad: Sarfraz Ahmad (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmad Shahzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umar Amin, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Amir, Ruman Raees, Usman Shinwari and Sohail Khan.
World XI squad: Faf du Plessis (captain, South Africa), Hashim Amla (South Africa), Samuel Badree (WI), Darren Sammy (WI), George Bailey (Australia), Paul Collingwood (England), Ben Cutting (Australia), Grant Elliott (New Zealand), Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh), David Miller (South Africa), Morne Morkel (South Africa), Tim Paine (wicketkeeper) (Australia), Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka), Imran Tahir (South Africa).
‘SL, WI to tour Pakistan as well’
Starting with the World XI tour in September, Pakistan cricket fans, after nearly eight years, will finally have a season of international cricket on their home turf.
According to the announcement made by PCB chairman, West Indies Cricket Board on Monday confirmed to the PCB in an email that they are ready to participate in a three-T20I series in Pakistan; however, the decision still takes into account the security arrangements made for the World XI series.
“West Indies has agreed to play three T20Is in Pakistan over four days,” revealed Sethi. “They will visit the country towards the end of November.”
Sethi then discussed Sri Lanka’s agreement where they promised to play at least one of three T20Is against Pakistan in Lahore.
“Sri Lanka has said that they want to play one or two T20Is of our series in Pakistan, but we have requested them why not all three?” said Sethi.
The 69-year-old praised Sri Lanka board for taking a bold step even after the bitter experience of the 2009 attack by militants in Lahore on the Islanders’ team bus.
“It was very difficult to convince Sri Lanka,” said Sethi. “There is opposition from former cricketers and board member regarding this tour. They don’t want the team to visit Pakistan, however, their board has taken a strong stand, and said we will visit Pakistan.”
Sethi refrained from announcing any specific dates for the Sri Lanka team’s tour of Pakistan citing security reasons.