Amir returns to the national side, Gul also makes a comeback for Pakistan
The most fabled affair doing rounds around Pakistan Cricket, and world cricket at large, saw better sense prevail in the end, as after a five-year exile from the field, Mohammad Amir, arguably Pakistan’s most lethal young prodigy, returned to the limited-overs squads picked for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.
That the 23-year-old has returned shouldn’t come as a surprise given the ‘by hook or by crook’ method that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had put in place to have him in the team, which with some resistance, meandered its way through the barrage of current and former cricketers who acted as significant roadblocks.
To mention a few, Azhar Ali, the country’s limited-overs captain, was the most vocal amongst the opposition along with former captain Mohammad Hafeez, as the duo had warned to boycott the conditioning camp as well as the playing XI, should Amir be a part of it.
Other vocalists such as the Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq, former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq amongst others were also present, but through this team selection, the board has given clear indications about its intentions and purposes.
All isn’t lost for Amir, though, as support was also there for the tainted pacer through Shoaib Malik and other cricketers who had verbally supported Amir’s probable return to the Pakistan team. This was also backed by the chief selector of the national team, Haroon Rashid.
Amir, on the other hand, has worked extremely hard since being reinstated by the ICC in September to earn his recall into the team. He performed brilliantly in domestic cricket and carried his form into the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) where he finished as one of the tournament’s most successful bowlers.
However, all isn’t well for the fast bowler yet, as he might face legal glitches while travelling abroad due to him being a proven convict in a criminal case. The PCB is exploring all methods to bail him out of this as well, as it has roped in legal advisors from England as well as Amir’s lawyer.
While the Lahore High Court made way for his inclusion into the side, quashing a litigation against it, obtaining a visa for foreign countries might still be a hurdle.
The limelight of this saga, however, must not take the attention away from another fast bowler who returned to the squad, the veteran Umar Gul, who last played for Pakistan in April last year, into the T20I squad.
While Gul is back in the T20I squad, the 7-footed Mohammad Irfan is absent from it to make way for Amir. Azhar Ali and Shahid Afridi have been retained as the captains of the ODI and the T20I sides respectively.
Apart from Ali, Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Ahmed Shehzad and Asad Shafiq complete the batting line-up for the ODI side, while Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Anwar Ali providing the options for lower-order finishers.
Wahab Riaz is expected to lead the bowling attack bolstered by Amir while Irfan and Rahat Ali are expected to share the attack. With Yasir Shah being suspended from bowling after failing a drug test, the spin department looks vulnerable with Imad Wasim – who last played against Zimbabwe at home – and Zafar Gohar expected to share the load.
The T20 side has a considerable touch of youth as Aamer Yamin, Saad Nasim and Imad Wasim have been included, to be lead by Afridi.
Iftikhar Ahmed, like Irfan, has been included in the ODI squad but not in the T20I squad.
The squads for the Three ODIs and three T20s in New Zealand from January 15 are as follows:
ODI squad: Azhar Ali (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sohaib Maqsood, Zafar Gohar, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Wahab Raiz, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir.
T20 squad: Shahid Afridi (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Aamer Yamin, Sarfraz Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Mohammad Rizwan, Saad Nasim, Mohammad Amir.