Pakistan have replaced batsman Khurram Manzoor with Ahmed Shehzad in their World T20 squad, with chief selector Haroon Rasheed admitting that Manzoor’s inclusion was a gamble that “backfired” in the Asia Cup.
Based on the Asia Cup performances, there had been a lot of deliberation among the selectors at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. The top order was the main concern with Mohammad Hafeez, Manzoor and Sharjeel Khan combining for just 94 runs in Pakistan’s four games in the tournament. To address the batting issues, the selectors brought back the experienced Shehzad, who was earlier dropped for his inconsistency. He won his place back with his performance in the Pakistan Super League, where he scored 290 runs in ten games at a strike-rate of 143.56, including a half-century in the final.
“The inclusion of Khurram backfired and as a chief selector I take full responsibility,” Haroon Rasheed told ESPNcricinfo. “Call it an error of judgement or whatever, but we all have seen him scoring runs in domestic cricket and we gave him a chance. He didn’t grab it, it’s up to the player to justify his selection and in his case he didn’t. We gambled on [Shoaib] Malik last year and it paid off.
“Now when we look around for who is going to replace Khurram, we don’t really have a serious contender, but Ahmed at least has some experience under his belt. He did show some form in PSL too, otherwise we haven’t seen any other [impressive] opening batsman.”
There were suggestions that Salman Butt might be added to the squad but the idea was shot down; the board is not ready to reintegrate the former captain into the squad so soon after the end of his ban for spot-fixing in 2010. Butt, though, is “eligible” to play international cricket and recently scored 536 runs at 107.20 to finish second highest run-scorer in the National One-Day Cup behind Kamran Akmal. But captain Shahid Afridi opposed Butt’s selection and that along with the PCB’s lack of interest in bringing him back at this point meant Shehzad got the nod.
There were also murmurs of Afridi’s place in the team being in question but he has been retained. He is set to call time on his international career at the end of the World T20 and his form was another major worry to come out of the Asia Cup; he scored only two runs in two innings there, and claimed two wickets from three bowling innings, continuing his year-long dip in form (17 T20s for 173 runs at 12.35 and 12 wickets at 35.41). During the Asia Cup he remained a mere shadow of his former self, reportedly skipping team meetings, training sessions and press conferences as well as having his on-field captaincy scrutinised, especially the way he used his bowlers.
PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan had previously hinted at a change in leadership for the World T20 but with just a few days left for Pakistan’s tournament to begin the board decided against such a move. “I understand there is a lot of criticism but I am not going to change anything one week before the major tournament in India,” Khan recently said. “Afridi will remain captain unless he himself pulls out of the job. He has been serving Pakistan from the last 15 years. There are problems in his captaincy which can’t be mended, especially at a time when his career is about to be end.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @kalson
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