Imran Nazir returns to ODI squad
Shahid Afridi and Imran Nazir made suprise returns to the Pakistan ODI squad to play South Africa while Abdul Rehman, Shabbir Ahmed and the fit-again Abdul Razzaq have also received expected call-ups for the five-match series, which gets underway with a Twenty20 game from February 2.
Afridi has been the subject of much debate in Pakistan recently. The two main English language dailies, Dawn and The News, captured the divided opinions perfectly, one running stories on his imminent recall, the other on his equally imminent axing. He has averaged under ten in his last 25 matches though he can point to constant shuffling up and down the order.
Afridi told AFP, however, that he was confident he would regain his touch in South Africa where he performed well for Griqualand West as an overseas player two years ago. "I know I have to lift my game before the World Cup and I am hopeful that I will be able to do that because I know the South African grounds well."
Shabbir and Razzaq are fit again, the latter recovering from a thigh injury that ruled him out of the Test series and the former returning to international cricket for the first time in over a year, after he was banned by the ICC for an illegal action.
Wasim Bari, chairman of selectors, said that both players were fully fit now, acutely aware of the problems Pakistan had faced on this tour with injured players. "We hope that these players will boost (the) Pakistan team for the one-day series and Razzaq and Ahmed have proved their fitness before our physiotherapist Grant Compton," Bari said.
Nazir, 25, meanwhile returns for his first international action in two and a half years, mainly on the back of strong performances in domestic competitions. "Nazir has shown he has overcome his poor form and we have rewarded him for his good showing in the local competitions," said Bari.
Nazir, who last played one-dayers in the 2004 Asia Cup in Colombo, has a healthy first-class average of 40.20 from three matches this season but his domestic one-day average last season was relatively poor at 18.33 from six matches.
Danish Kaneria, Asim Kamal, Faisal Iqbal and Shahid Nazir, part of the Test squad, will return home after the Test at Cape Town. Additionally, Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul have already returned, after picking up injuries while on tour. Shoaib Malik who missed the Tests with an ankle injury is expected to be fit for the ODI series. One more player, unidentified as yet, will return home after the Test series, leaving Pakistan eventually with a 16-man squad.
Pakistan one-day squad:
Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Yasir Hameed, Imran Nazir, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Abdul Razzaq, Zulqarnain Haider (wk), Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Asif, Abdul Rehman, Shabbir Ahmed, Imran Farhat and Mohammad Sami