Afridi, Umar Akmal recalled for West Indies tour
Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal have been recalled to Pakistan's ODI and T20 squads for the limited-overs tour of the West Indies later this month. Two notable players who have been dropped from the Champions Trophy squad are wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal and allrounder Shoaib Malik.
Fast bowler Umar Gul, who last played in March during the South Africa tour, was sidelined again as he hadn't yet recovered from his knee surgery.
The ODI squad features the uncapped 21-year-old wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, as a backup to Akmal, who was picked as the first-choice wicketkeeper. Ahmed Shehzad, the opening batsman, has been recalled to both squads. Zulfiqar Babar, 34, who has been part of the domestic circuit for more than ten years, figures in the T20 squad.
Pakistan were let down by their senior batsmen in the Champions Trophy in England as the side failed to pass 200 in their three games - the third match against India was rain-affected - only to be eliminated from the group stage. Malik managed just 25 runs in three matches, Kamran 23 and Farhat four in two. With the pitches in the West Indies expected to be slower, the selectors have gone with one less seamer, dropping Ehsan Adil.
Afridi had been dropped from the ODI squad twice in the last six months after hitting a slump with both bat and ball. He was first dropped for the one-day leg of the India tour in January before making a comeback in South Africa, but was left out again for the Champions Trophy. In the 21 ODIs since January 2012, Afridi has picked up 15 wickets at 57.13 and scored 308 runs at 19.25. He had been training at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore over the past couple of weeks, and passed the fitness test.
The captain Misbah-ul-Haq defended Afridi's inclusion but added that he wasn't necessarily an automatic selection in the XI. Misbah said Afridi was picked as an 'optional' allrounder who can bat at No.7 and bowl spin.
"He is an option who can help us on slower tracks (in the West Indies)," Misbah said when asked how difficult it was to pick an out-of-form player. "Malik was the one who had been helping us out with six to seven overs and was handy with the bat as well so Afridi has been recalled in place of Malik as an extra allrounder who can roll his arm on turning tracks and contribute quick runs at No.7.
"But it doesn't mean he is automatically in the XI. We first have to look at the conditions and then take a call. We are happy with the selection of 16 players and I will be ready to shoulder the responsibility of any result."
Umar Akmal was dropped from the Test side last year and was subsequently was axed from the ODI side this year. He had been working on his wicketkeeping skills at the NCA over the last two weeks under the coach Dav Whatmore. When asked if wicketkeeping would be an additional burden on him, chief selector Iqbal Qasim said that Umar Akmal was "comfortable with wicketkeeping and the decision had been taken with his consent."
"We have also added Mohammad Rizwan as a backup wicketkeeper but Umar will be doing most of the glove work and Rizwan will also be tried but it depends on the situation," Qasim said.
Umar Akmal has kept wicket in seven ODIs and the selectors have hinted at a short-term and experimental role, as his dual role could help the balance of the side.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here