Umar Amin new face in Pakistan's 15-man squad
Nineteen-year-old batsman Umar Amin has been rewarded for his impact on the domestic season with a call-up to Pakistan's 15-man squad for the first ODI against Sri Lanka on January 21 in Karachi. The team, the first picked by a new-look selection committee headed by Abdul Qadir, has gone back to traditional Pakistani strength, pace, but is not entirely without surprise.
Amin was the second-highest run-getter in last month's RBS Pentangular One-Day Cup, scoring 254 runs at an average of 84.66 and strike-rate of 89.12. A sound left-hand top-order batsman, he has impressed on several Under-19 tours and was also part of Pakistan's Under-19 squad at last year's World Cup in Malaysia.
"He is a real prospect and the coach and captain were both keen to have him in the squad, to encourage him and groom him further," Salim Jaffer, one of the selectors, told Cricinfo. "He has impressed a number of people this season."
But pace it is that dominates Pakistan's thinking ahead of the three-match series. Sohail Khan returns having missed the Abu Dhabi series against West Indies in November as does the skiddy, all-round option of Yasir Arafat. Ahead of both are the first-choicers, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul and Iftikhar Anjum, thus giving Pakistan six options. The wickets, it is a given, will be quicker and bouncier than have been seen in recent times.
"The selection committee spoke to the coach Intikhab Alam about the plan for the series and we have picked a squad according to that," Jaffer said. "Our strength is pace and we believe our options there are stronger than Sri Lanka's so we have gone for that."
But there are some surprises in this squad, prime among them the exclusion of Nasir Jamshed. Arguably Pakistan's find of a lean year in 2008, Jamshed has been overlooked despite being in the runs domestically. Jamshed missed the Abu Dhabi matches after pulling out at the last minute with an illness and was replaced by Khurram Manzoor.
A fair rather than spectacular return in those three ODIs has meant Manzoor retains his place over Jamshed, though it is learnt the spot was the focus of considerable debate and disagreement between the committee. One selector was in favour, but was ultimately ruled over by the other two.
There was also some friction over the dropping of Fawad Alam, the allrounder, who has become a regular squad fixture over the last year. As much as a lack of impact, it is thought Pakistan's preference for pace in this contest went against him.
The only spinner in the squad is offspinner Saeed Ajmal, which means there's no place yet for legspinner Danish Kaneria, who was hopeful of a one-day call-up with the change in the PCB management. Kaneria was surprisingly promoted to the top grade of central contracts and noises coming from the new management had suggested he may get a look-in under these selectors, having long been outside of Pakistan's ODI thinking. But a poor showing in the Pentangular one-dayers seems to have gone against him for the moment.
Sri Lanka's visit will be the first test for Shoaib Malik after he was given an indefinite extension as the team's captain earlier this month.
Pakistan squad : Shoaib Malik (capt), Misbah-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk) , Sohail Tanvir, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Iftikhar Anjum, Saeed Ajmal, Khurram Manzoor, Sohail Khan, Yasir Arafat, Umar Amin.