May 27, 2003

No place for Razzaq and Inzamam

Suhael Ahmed

Abdul Razzaq, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Taufeeq Umar and Faisal Iqbal have all been left out of the Pakistan squad for the short tour of England for three one-day internationals - but there is a place for the suspended Shoaib Akhtar.

The out-of-form Taufeeq, who played in Sharjah and more recently in the Bank Alfalah Cup in Sri Lanka, has made way for the more aggressive opener Imran Nazir. Misbah-ul-Haq has replaced Faisal Iqbal, who also failed to impress in Sri Lanka, while Azhar Mahmood, currently playing for Surrey, has been recalled after being dropped following a modest World Cup. A new face, the uncapped Bilal Asad, replaces Abdul Razzaq.

In the recent triangular tournament in Sri Lanka, a young Pakistan squad made it to the finals but lost to New Zealand. This performance has pleased Aamer Sohail, Pakistan's chief selector, who said: "We won in Sharjah and were the losing finalist in Sri Lanka which means that we are on the right track. And keeping this in mind, we have tried to make minimum changes in the squad."

Aamer also had good words for Azhar Mahmood. "He has been included keeping in view his excellent form with the bat and the ball for Surrey. He is a utility player who, we strongly believe, will make a difference to the outlook of the team."

Aamer added that Imran Nazir came back after a recent trial where "he looked in good nick", but the selectors still felt that Taufeeq "is an excellent prospect and a future asset, but he is getting out in a similar fashion which means that he has a flaw in his technique. I am sure he will sort out his problem."

Bilal Asad, who has come in for Abdul Razzaq, is a batting allrounder who performed well in Pakistan domestic cricket with an average of 63 and scored more than 1200 runs last season.

Another notable omission was that of Inzamam-ul-Haq, who has been the bulwark of Pakistan's batting in the past. Aamer offered him some consolation: "He has not played cricket recently, but we are aware of his talent, experience and potential, and it is just a matter of time before he will be back in the side."

Shoaib Akhtar is also included, but he will need to sit out the first of the three ODIs after incurring a two-match ban in Sri Lanka.

The Pakistan selectors have stuck with the young players who they brought in after the dismal performances in the World Cup. The feeling is that a tour of England is always tough, and they hope to hone the skills of the younger players in an effort to carry on the rebuilding process.

Pakistan are due to play warm-up games against Scotland and three county teams, followed by three ODIs against England. The tour kicks off with a game against Scotland on June 7.

Pakistan squad Rashid Latif (capt and wk), Yousuf Youhana (vice-capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Faisal Athar, Yasir Hameed, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Bilal Asad, Azhar Mahmood, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmad, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria.
Coach: Javed Miandad
Manager: Haroon Rashid