Shahid Afridi makes ODI comeback
Shahid Afridi has made a comeback to Pakistan's ODI squad for the series in South Africa, after being omitted for the tour of India in December last year. The selectors chose him because of his previous success as a legspinner against South Africa, despite him being out of form at present. Batsman Asad Shafiq and spinner Abdur Rehman were the other inclusions for the five-match series that begins on March 10.
The players left out from the ODI squad that went to India were Anwar Ali, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail and Zulfiqar Babar. There was only one change to the Twenty20 squad, with Wahab Riaz replacing Sohail Tanvir, who was part of the team that had travelled to India.
The inclusion of Afridi generated plenty of debate and the chief selector Iqbal Qasim had to answer a barrage of questions. Qasim said that this series was Afridi's "last chance and he has to perform."
"He [Afridi] played against Afghanistan, basically we wanted to assess his fitness and he is fully fit," Qasim said. "They [South Africa] are playing well against fast bowling and our pacers are struggling, so having variety in spin will prove beneficial. The decision to pick Afridi is based on his quality of right-arm leg spin.
"I am not saying go and play him in the XI, my mind says we have to have some variety. Our task is to select the best lot to play against South Africa and Afridi has a role to play with his variety in his bowling."
Afridi was dropped from the ODI squad last year due to his poor form both with ball and bat. In his last 12 international innings across ODIs and T20s, he averaged 7.00 with the bat. He failed to make an impact for Pakistan A and the Hyderbad-Karachi team in the recently concluded home games against an Afghanistan XI. However, he is the most successful Pakistan spinner against South Africa, with 26 wickets in 27 ODIs.
Riaz, 27, last played for Pakistan 11 months ago in the Asia Cup but is having a productive ongoing first-class season. He was selected for the recent tour of India but did not play a game. He was preferred over Aizaz Cheema and replaced Tanvir in the T20 squad because of his ability to bowl over 140 kph.
ODI squad: Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Imran Farhat, Abdur Rehman.
Twenty20 squad: Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Amin, Zulfiqar Babar, Asad Ali, Junaid Khan.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent