Kamran Akmal not picked for New Zealand tour
Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik's exclusion from Pakistan cricket's national set-up is set to continue after the pair were overlooked for the Twenty20 and Test segments of the New Zealand tour. The veteran Mohammad Yousuf has also not been picked, the first indication that his time at international level may be coming to an end.
Kamran and Malik were not "given clearance" for selection by the board's integrity committee, but the Pakistan Cricket Board did not give any further details as to why that decision was taken. "We discussed a vast pool of players but these two were not given clearance by the board," chief selector Mohsin Khan told ESPNcricinfo.
The pair have not been part of the national side since the summer tour to England. Former captain Malik's lack of form was initially the public reason for his exclusion, but Kamran's absence has only been surrounded by confusion. He was not picked for the series against South Africa after undergoing an appendicitis operation shortly before the tour, but he was fit by the time the Tests began.
Speculation linking him to the spot-fixing scandal has been rife but in October Kamran received written clearance from the ICC stating that he could be picked for Pakistan. Since then, he has been scoring heavily on the domestic circuit, much like Malik.
Kamran's younger brother Adnan, who made his Test debut against South Africa, retains his place as the squad's sole wicketkeeper.
The future for Yousuf seems equally bleak, however for very different reasons. There had been reports recently that he was unlikely to be part of Pakistan's World Cup plans but the Test axe comes as the greater surprise.
Yousuf was ruled out of the Tests against South Africa on the morning of the first Test due to a recurrence of a groin injury but that wasn't the reason for his exclusion. "The injury is not an issue," Mohsin said. "Yousuf is a great player we all know that, but we are concerned over his fitness levels and so have not picked him."
The emergence of Azhar Ali., the return of Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq's sprightly debut and captain Misbah-ul-Haq's return to form has played a part in the selectors' omission of Yousuf; alongside Umar Akmal, Pakistan's middle order suddenly holds greater promise and depth than it has for a while. In the last three years, the 36-year-old Yousuf averages 35 in 13 Tests, with a solitary hundred.
There are few surprises elsewhere. Shahid Afridi and Misbah have been retained as captains for the Twenty20 and Test sides respectively, while opener Imran Farhat and seamer Mohammad Sami, both of whom played against South Africa, have been axed. Ahmed Shehzad returns to the limited-overs game at the top of the order, to try and build on a promising debut last year against Australia in the Middle East. For the Tests, opener Khurram Manzoor, who's played seven Tests and most recently scored a century against West Indies A, is a late addition to the squad.
For spinning duties, the selectors have chosen to persist with Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, who also showed ability with the bat against South Africa. Danish Kaneria, who had been prevented by the PCB from joining the Test squad for the South Africa series - despite being named in the original squad - is also ignored again.
No reason was given for Kaneria missing out the South Africa series, though it was speculated that his involvement in a spot-fixing case earlier in the summer for Essex - from which he was cleared - played a role. This time, however, it is believed he has been dropped because the selectors are simply keen to push Ajmal or Rehman.
Umar Gul, Tanvir Ahmed, Sohail Tanvir and Wahab Riaz - subject to fitness after suffering a muscle strain against South Africa - will take on the bulk of the pace bowling. Additionally Shoaib Akhtar will be there for the three Twenty20s.
Pakistan are likely to announce their ODI squad for the tour which includes three Twenty20s, two Tests and six 50-over games, before the start of the second Test. "We are trying to get the best preparation for the World Cup," Mohsin said. "Though New Zealand will always be tough opposition, we must keep the World Cup in mind throughout."
They begin the tour with a warm-up game against Auckland on December 23.
Twenty20 squad: Shahid Afridi (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shahzad, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Fawad Alam, Adnan Akmal (wk), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar, Tanvir Ahmed, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz (subject to fitness).
Test squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Adnan Akmal (wk), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Tanvir Ahmed, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Khurram Manzoor.