Pacer Mohammad Amir, the hero of Pakistan’s previous triumph in an ICC tournament, will not play the World Cup in England as things stand. He was not part of the 15 named by the PCB on Thursday for the showpiece event. Left-arm pacer Usman Shinwari also missed out. Another significant name missing from the 15 was power-hitter Asif Ali.
Amir will, however, travel to England for the preceding ODI series against England. His non-inclusion for the World Cup should come as no surprise, going purely by the numbers. Since that stunning showing in the final of the Champions Trophy final – incidentally, also in England – he has taken five ODI wickets in 101 overs of bowling at an average of 92.60 per wicket, the worst numbers among all bowlers to have sent down over 600 balls in this period.
The deadline to announce squads is April 23, but teams can make changes till May 23 without seeking permission from the ICC’s event technical committee. ESPNcricinfo understands the April 23 date was put in place to allow the ICC to proceed with logistics like hotel and flight bookings.
Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq announced the squad at a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium, and said the side had been picked according to the conditions and included reliable batters, trusted wicket-taking bowlers and dynamic fielders.
“In England and Wales, conditions play a critical role. With this in mind, we have selected a three-dimensional side, which gives the captain a wide range of options of whatever game plan he chooses on a match day. We have experienced batters, who are backed up by bowlers with plenty of variety and variation to exploit any type of conditions.
“This is more or less the side we have been playing since the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. I have absolute trust that this side has grown further in experience and stature since 2017. Supported by the flare, skill, talent and killing-instinct, this side has the capability and potential to rise to the occasion and produce strong performances. While picking the side, we’ve tried to cover all bases by assessing our strengths as well as analysing each opponent, the match venues and the event format.”
Before the World Cup, Pakistan travel to England for a one-off T20 and five ODIs. Amir apart, the other addition the the World Cup squad for the England series is Asif Ali. Asif has 200 runs in the eight ODI innings he has played for Pakistan in the lower-middle order, with a highest of 50 not out and, importantly, a strike rate of 130.71. One could argue he is one of the few power-hitting options for Pakistan at the moment, but there remained the question of balance to the XI should he have been included for the World Cup.
The experienced Mohammad Hafeez has been picked in the World Cup 15 subject to fitness; he is still recovering from the surgery he had on his right thumb after picking up an injury while fielding in the Pakistan Super League in mid-February.
Mohammad Rizwan is one of the more unfortunate players to miss out, given his performances in the five-match series against Australia. He was Pakistan;s second highest runscorer, hitting two hundreds while having a largely spotless time behind the stumps. He remains one of the fittest players in and around the Pakistan team, a point the coaching staff have always been eager to make. It was a point Inzamam was happy to acknowledge saying the decision to leave him out was a difficult one, but he was heartened by the depth of the second-string players.
“The six players we had rested for the Australia series were automatic selections at the World Cup for us,” Inzamam said. As it happens, our captain Sarfraz Ahmed is a wicketkeeper and he has delivered for Pakistan over several years. Rizwan is our second wicketkeeper, and his performance is good to see. Him not being selected certainly doesn’t make him a bad player.”
The squad leaves for England on April 23 to play five ODIs, and it is in these games that Amir and Asif Ali, chosen specifically for that tour, must impress enough to force the selectors to change their mind. As things stand, Mohammad Amir looks set to miss out on yet another World Cup campaign.
Squad for the World Cup: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez (subject to fitness), Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Sohail
Additions for England series: Mohammad Amir, Asif Ali