Pakistan news July 17, 2012

Kamran Akmal returns for Pakistan

Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal has been recalled by Pakistan for the Twenty20s against Australia in August, and September's World Twenty20. Kamran, who last played for Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup, was cleared by the PCB's integrity committee earlier this month.

Batsman Imran Nazir, who last played for Pakistan in February 2010, and allrounder Abdul Razzaq have also made the squad for both tournaments. None of these three players has a central contract.

"Each player in the side has a role and has been selected accordingly," Iqbal Qasim, Pakistan's chief selector, told ESPNcricinfo. "Razzaq and Imran are utility players and can make a difference. Imran is a good fielder, while Razzaq can also be useful as a seamer on Sri Lankan pitches [during the World T20] and can score some quick runs."

Mohammad Hafeez, who was named Pakistan's Twenty20 captain ahead of the just-concluded Sri Lanka tour, will continue to lead. According to the PCB release that announced the squad, Hafeez has been named captain 'till the end of 2012'.

Asad Shafiq has been picked following his solid Test series in Sri Lanka, during which he scored two half-centuries and a hundred in five innings. He has scored 192 runs in 10 Twenty20 internationals for Pakistan.

Opener Nasir Jamshed is also back, after recovering from a fracture of the index finger that ruled him out of the Sri Lanka tour. He is one of four openers in the squad, along with Nazir, Kamran and Hafeez.

Speaking after the news of his selection broke, Jamshed said was looking forward to the competition among the openers. "Winning back the opportunity [to play for Pakistan] is always hard, and I am glad to have [my place] back. I have recovered [from the injury] and am sensing tough competition for the opening slot. But being a left-hander, it differentiates me from the other [three]."

The players to miss out from the Twenty20 squad that played in Sri Lanka are Khalid Latif, Ahmed Shahzad, Hammad Azam, Haris Sohail and wicketkeeper Shakeel Ansar.

There are no changes on the bowling front, with Saeed Ajmal and 20-year-old Raza Hasan being the specialist spinners, and Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Sami the quicks.

"Raza, though young, isn't a new name," Qasim said. "He has been performing and [taking into account] the need for a left-arm spinner, he is the best [option] at the moment.

"Sami, along with Gul, is our strike bowler. They may not be in form, but with ample experience under their belt they can bounce back and play their role."

The message from Pakistan's selectors in picking their squad for the Australia series and the World Twenty20 seems to be a green signal for tried and tested hands and an amber light for promising youth. The most bizarre omission is that of Junaid Khan, who, in his brief career, has made a name for himself in Tests and has been making strides in limited-overs cricket as well. He's been passed over for Mohammad Sami but, given Sami's inconsistency, could have been a more effective complement to Umar Gul. Junaid, still in his second year of international cricket, bounced back from a heel injury to pick up 14 wickets - including two five-fors - in the recent Tests against Sri Lanka.

Also to suffer is the highly-rated allrounder Hammad Azam, who has lost out to Abdul Razzaq. Azam seemed to have answered the selectors' call for a new allrounder in 2010, when he was picked in the national squad for the World T20, but his growth has been hampered by inconsistent selection. Razzaq's last appearance for Pakistan was in November 2011, after which he was overlooked on grounds of form and fitness. He was not handed a central contract recently, so his recall raises more questions over the selectors' rationale.

And Ahmed Shahzad, 20, appeared to be in the selectors' Twenty20 plans before the Sri Lanka tour but has now lost his place to Imran Nazir - who will be making his fourth T20 comeback for Pakistan since 2007. Nazir was last recalled in 2010, for the series against England in the UAE, but was sent back to the fringes after scoring 2 and 4.
Umar Farooq

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent

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