Pakistan have recalled power-hitters Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah for next month’s cricket Twenty20 World Cup.
The selectors named a 15-member squad on Monday that will also play five-match home series against New Zealand later this month and a two-match series against England before flying out to the United Arab Emirates for the T20 World Cup.
“We have tried to cover all our bases by catering for the modern day brand of T20 cricket that will be required to perform strongly in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup,” chief selector Muhammad Wasim said in a statement.
The selectors have kept confidence in Asif, who the played last of his 29 Twenty20 internationals against Zimbabwe in April. The middle-order batter averages 25.4 with a strike rate of 121.65, but has been struggling for runs lately.
He is competing in the Caribbean Premier League, but has scored just 32 runs in five matches.
Left-handed batsman Khushdil averages 21 in nine Twenty20s and has not played for Pakistan since an outing against South Africa at Lahore in February.
While acknowledging the fact that both batsmen do not have outstanding numbers, Wasim said that they were the best available for selection.
“They are the best in the available pool of middle-order batsmen and we remain confident that they will provide us solutions to our middle-order difficulties through solid performances,” Wasim said. Asif and Khushdil "will compliment Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan and Shoaib Maqsood. In Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan, we have three top-quality spinners who are equally good with the bat and outstanding in the field.”
Pakistan has dropped all-rounder Faheem Ashraf, former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, opening batsman Sharjeel Khan and fast bowler Arshad Iqbal, who were part of Pakistan’s squads in the last series against England and the West Indies.
Legspinner Usman Qadir, opening batter Fakhar Zaman and fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani will travel with the team to the UAE as reserve players.
Wasim said the three were unlucky to miss out on full selection.
“Sohaib Maqsood’s ability to bat and perform anywhere in the top-order has given him an edge over Fakhar, while the presence of three experienced spinners, who are also capable batters, and five genuine wicket-taking fast bowlers made it difficult for Usman Qadir to get into the side," Wasim said.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Azam Khan, who made his Twenty20 debut against England, was retained in the squad as a backup to regular gloveman Rizwan.
Pakistan is placed in Group 2 along with archrival India, New Zealand, Afghanistan and two qualifiers. Pakistan begins its campaign on Oct. 24 against India.
Group 1 comprises Australia, South Africa, England, West Indies and two qualifiers.
Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Azam Khan, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Shaheen Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood.
Travelling reserves: Fakhar Zaman, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir.