Umar Akmal returns, Malik dropped, for England Tests
Umar Akmal, the Pakistan batsman, has been recalled to his team's Test squad for the series against England in the UAE. Left-arm seamers Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan are also back in the squad, and Shoaib Malik and seamer Mohammad Khalil, who toured Bangladesh, have been left out.
Malik was dropped after a run of poor performances with the bat in ODIs. He hasn't played a Test since August last year and has managed just 35 runs in six innings since his return to the national team in September this year. Khalil, a left-arm medium-pace bowler, was part of Pakistan's touring squad to Bangladesh but didn't play a game. He had replaced Junaid Khan, who suffered an abdominal muscle strain, for the Bangladesh tour and Junaid's return to the squad against England meant Khalil lost his spot.
Junaid's inclusion is still subject to him proving his fitness. He is training at the National Cricket Academy and will be playing a match for his regional Under-23 team on December 31.
"There are some players who are dropped and some are recalled but nobody is out of the picture and can be selected only if they perform. Malik may be dropped but he isn't out of the picture," the PCB's chief selector Mohammad Ilyas said at a press conference at the Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore.
Riaz's selection ends his unexplained six-month break from cricket - his last Test was against West Indies in May this year. His name came up during the spot-fixing trial of Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir in a London court in October, as part of a written statement from Pakistan's security manager, Major Khwaja Najam Javed, which was read out by the prosecution.
In the statement, Najam said he had found Azhar Majeed, the brother and business partner of Mazhar Majeed, in Wahab's hotel room after midnight, along with Butt and Kamran Akmal during the Oval Test. Businessman and player agent Mazhar Majeed had pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.
"It was tough not being the part of the squad for some time. But I had a firm belief that things will be cleared, I don't want to get into the details," Riaz told ESPNcricinfo. "What I know is that I am ready for yet another stint. I have kept myself fit and in form while playing domestic cricket so I don't think I will face any difficulty." He turned in a strong domestic performance for National Bank of Pakistan in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, with 30 wickets in six games at 24.86.
Umar has achieved a fair amount of success in the limited-overs formats and burst on to the Test scene with a century on debut against New Zealand in Dunedin in 2009. But he hasn't scored a century in 29 innings since, often getting starts but not pushing on for a big score. He was left out of the Test series against Sri Lanka in the UAE but has won his place back at Malik's expense against England.
Pakistan have had an impressive 2011, drawing a series in the West Indies, winning against Zimbabwe followed by Sri Lanka in the UAE before sweeping Bangladesh 2-0. They play England in a three-Test series, starting January 17 in Dubai, followed by four ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals. England will play two tour games ahead of the Tests, including one against a PCB XI led by Sarfraz Ahmed.