Umar Akmal's poor fitness has opened the door for Haris Sohail's return to the Pakistan squad, in the Champions Trophy. The left-hand batsman last played for Pakistan in May 2015, scoring an unbeaten 52 in the side's win over Zimbabwe in Lahore. He is expected to join the squad before Pakistan's warm-up game against Bangladesh on Saturday.
Sohail was among three batsmen, alongside Umar Amin and Asif Zakir, who were assessed at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) following Umar's failed fitness tests in England. Based on reports submitted by the NCA trainer, PCB's selection committee, headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq, picked Sohail to join Pakistan's squad for the tournament that begins on June 1.
Sohail had picked up a knee injury while sprinting ahead of the second Test at P Sara Oval in Colombo in 2015. That forced Sohail to undergo an extensive rehabilitation program thereafter at NCA and had a surgery in Dubai which reportedly went unsuccessful pushing his career into doubts. The PCB took over his case and sent him to England for yet another rehabilitation program thus allowing him to make a comeback.
"I worked really hard for my comeback after battling with the injury for long," Sohail said. "I have kept myself prepared...as a sportsman my aim is to perform and when I got dropped earlier it because of my injury and not because of my performance. So I am sure selectors have taken that into account while shortlisting my name. So all the hard work i have done is paying off."
The selection marks a welcome return for Sohail, who had started his ODI career brightly. In just his fourth international innings, Sohail had scored an unbeaten 85 to steer Pakistan home in a tense finish against New Zealand in Dubai. His consistency was perhaps the most eye-catching feature about his batting; in 21 ODI innings, he failed to reach double figures on just four occasions, averaging 43 at a strike-rate of 82.86. However, a serious knee injury derailed his career, and there were even concerns that he might have to give up the game.
For Sohail, the call-up after two years almost felt like he was receiving his "debut call-up". He said: "When I got unfit, it was such a situation where I was in top form, runs were flowing, but falling unfit then was disappointing. I hope all my effort and struggle over the years pay off this time."
Sohail has been prolific in List A cricket recently, having scored two fifties and a century in his last five games. Sohail's left-arm spin might have also helped his cause for selection at a time when Pakistan's lack of a proper allrounder is conspicuous.