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Afghanistan v Pakistan

Key players rested and PSL form rewarded – Four takeaways from Pakistan’s T20I squad to take on Afghanistan

Key Players Rested And PSL Form Rewarded - Four Takeaways From Pakistan's T20I Squad To Take On Afghanistan
by Katya Witney 3 minute read

Pakistan have announced their squad for their three-match T20I series against Afghanistan in the UAE, with some notable takeaways coming from names included and left out of the 15-man group.

The series will be held entirely in Sharjah, running from March 24 to March 27. Shadab Khan will lead the side in Babar Azam’s absence with Saim Ayub and Ihsanullah breaking into the squad after impressive performances in the PSL. Although the circumstances surrounding Pakistan’s interim T20I captaincy led to some controversy on Monday, it was confirmed by Haroon Rasheed – head of the newly formed PCB selection committee for the national senior men’s team – that Babar remains Pakistan’s all-format captain.

Rasheed also clarified that the tour is being used to try out less experienced players. He said: “I am not worried about winning or losing to Afghanistan – if we find a few talented youngsters, it will solve the purpose. The series is largely about blooding our new talent and developing them.”


Pakistan’s squad for the T20I series against Afghanistan: Shadab Khan (c), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan. Reserve players: Abrar Ahmed, Haseebullah, Usama Mir.

Here are the key takeaways from the squad announcement

Key players rested

All of Babar, Mohammad Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman and Haris Rauf have been rested for the series. Afridi recovered from the injury he picked up during the T20 World Cup final in time to captain Lahore Qalandars in the ongoing PSL, while all of the rest have featured heavily in the tournament.

Pakistan have the Asia Cup and Cricket World Cup later this year, as well as ten white-ball matches against New Zealand in April and May. They will also play a Test series against Sri Lanka and ODIs against Afghanistan later in the year. The rest and rotation policy implementation follows concern over the amount of cricket played by those heavily involved in franchise leagues.

Since January 2021, Babar, Rizwan and Rauf have all played well over 100 games of professional cricket. Rauf was ruled out of cricket for a short time earlier this year after suffering a quadricep strain. The series against Afghanistan is set to begin five days after the conclusion of the PSL, in which all of the rested players are still participating.

PSL form rewarded

Saim Ayub and Ihsanullah both feature in a Pakistan white-ball squad for the first time after stand-out seasons in the PSL. Ihsanullah is currently only second to Abbas Afridi in the wicket-taking standings for the tournament and Ayub has blasted five half-centuries.

Ihsanullah took a searing five-for in his second match of the season for Multan Sultans, ripping through Safaraz Ahmed, Umar Akmal, Jason Roy and Iftikhar Ahmed before bowling Naseem Shah with a searing yorker. At only 20, he is the bowling find of this year’s tournament and his national selection marks a rapid rise to international cricket.

Ayub has made a splash partnering Babar at the top of Peshawar Zalmi’s order. His strike rate has set him apart from the rest and currently sits at 167.02 in the tournament. He has shown an array of eye-catching shots and supreme confidence in his ability to find the boundary. He offers a different approach from Babar and Rizwan at the top of the order.

Tayyab Tahir also finds a place in the squad after impressing for Karachi Kings, with 21-year-old Zaman Khan also included in the 15-man group.

Imad and Azam return

Imad Wasim has been recalled to the squad having not played a T20I since November 2021. The 34-year-old has forced his way back into national contention by scoring over 400 runs so far in the PSL and taking nine wickets. After a difficult couple of years in which he admitted he “didn’t know why” he was dropped from the Pakistan white-ball setup, Imad has an opportunity to reassert his place in the side.

Azam Khan also finds himself back in the squad after a stellar few months in franchise tournaments. He scored a masterful 42-ball 97 against Quetta Gladiators having also hit a century in the Bangladesh Premier League in January.

No Asif Ali, Haider, Hasnain or Khushdil

Four of those who were part of Pakistan’s squad for the T20 World Cup last year have not been selected for their first T20I assignment of 2023. All of the four have struggled to find consistent form in the PSL, and with the series being treated as an exploration exercise for Pakistan they have lost out to the less well-known names who have risen to prominence this winter.

With Pakistan’s selection process has recently undergone an overhaul, passing over the four players who formed an important part of Pakistan’s World Cup squad marks a significant move to prioritize form and potential over established international success.

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