Pakistan in New Zealand 2015-16 January 1, 2016

Mohammad Amir back in Pakistan limited-overs squads

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir has been selected in Pakistan's ODI and T20s squads for the upcoming limited-overs tour of New Zealand. This is Amir's first national selection since serving out his ban for spot-fixing in the Lord's Test of 2010. His inclusion is subject to his visa coming through - given he has served time in jail for his role in the spot-fixing, obtaining a New Zealand visa might prove problematic - though the PCB is confident of not having issues on that front.

Azhar Ali, who had earlier attempted to quit his role as ODI captain to protest against Amir's return to the national radar, remains in charge of the one-day team. Mohammad Hafeez, who had joined Azhar in his protests, was selected in both squads.

Asad Shafiq returned for the one-dayers, after being dropped for the ODIs against England, Pakistan's previous assignment, which they lost 3-1 in the UAE in November. Legspinner Yasir Shah was the big name missing from the ODI squad, expectedly, given he is provisionally suspended after testing positive for a banned substance.

Fast bowler Umar Gul, who has missed out since the away limited-overs series against Bangladesh in April 2015, returned to the T20 squad. Middle-order batsman Saad Nasim also returned. Mohammad Irfan, Sohail Tanvir and Junaid Khan missed out in the shortest format, making way for Amir. Pakistan's previous T20 series was also against England, in the UAE, which they lost 3-0.

Haroon Rasheed, the PCB chief selector, said of Amir's selection: "Policy-making is the PCB's prerogative and after his clearance he was selected. We didn't have to axe any players [such as Irfan, Tanvir or Junaid] to force him in, but he imposed himself with his performance. In case Amir fails to get visa, we will name a replacement later.

"Irfan is in our plan and he is a proven talent but we wanted to try a different combination and hence dropped him. We wanted to try Umar Gul instead - we saw his domestic performance and understood that he is ready again, and now we want to see how good he can be at the top level."

According to Rasheed, Pakistan's biggest issue would be their fielding. "Both the squads are balanced but at the same time we will have to compete with a tougher opponent. New Zealand have excelled in every department of the game. Pakistan have to fight hard to give them a tough time. But we do have a good bowling armoury. The only reason I see we can lose is due to the fielding, which is a weak link. If we manage to pull ourselves up in the field, then I do not see any reason Pakistan will lose."

Pakistan named only two specialist openers - Ahmed Shehzad and Hafeez - but Rasheed said Sohaib Maqsood and Sarfraz Ahmed would be available to open if required. "Both Sohaib and Sarfraz are marked as an option for the opening slot and it's up to the team management to take a call if they want to use them in the top order." Maqsood's ability up the order was tested during the recent Pakistan A T20 series against England Lions, where he made 17, 40, 3, 38 and 40.

Pakistan play three T20s and three ODIs in New Zealand from January 15. The T20s will be played in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington, before the ODIs kick off from January 25 in Wellington, Napier and Auckland.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

Comments