Pakistan looking for reserve pacemen - Mohsin Khan
"Zimbabwe cannot be taken lightly and our squad was picked with full respect for the opponents," Mohsin told Pakpassion.net. "There was never any real consideration for sending an entirely experimental squad made up of youngsters and players with little or no international experience. With international cricket not returning to Pakistan yet, we seem to have a reduced number of international fixtures and therefore we have less opportunity to experiment."
Pakistan have rested their two strike bowlers Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz, opting for a new-look pace attack that includes Sohail Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Aizaz Cheema and Junaid Khan. Mohsin said Gul and Riaz needed a rest and that Pakistan needed to build a reserve of fast bowlers in any case.
"Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz have been playing constantly in all formats of cricket recently and Umar had a slight injury problem ahead of the tour of the Caribbean. Both Sohail Tanvir and Sohail Khan have proved to the selectors that they are capable of bowling in all formats of cricket; they have shown that their fitness problems are behind them and they have bowled long spells in domestic cricket without any problems. Both of these boys have shown a great deal of promise in all formats and we felt deserved a recall."
While some of Pakistan's cricketers have had a couple of months off after the tour of Ireland, Gul and Riaz have both been playing for counties in England. Sohail Tanvir and Sohail Khan are both making comebacks to the Pakistan side. Tanvir was last in the squad for the tour of New Zealand early in the year, while Khan has been ignored since he played one Test and four ODIs back in 2008-09.
Another player making a comeback to the squad is opener Imran Farhat, who has not played for Pakistan since the England tour last summer. Farhat's return comes after Ahmed Shehzad failed to cement his place in the Pakistan limited-overs side. "We were looking for an outstanding, reliable young opening batsman for the Test arena, but we did not find one for the longer version of cricket," Mohsin sad. "Imran did not have a good tour of England last year and he was subsequently dropped, but he's bounced back well in domestic cricket and had a very good season last time around."
Mohsin also explained the return of Adnan Akmal for Mohammad Salman in the wicketkeeper's slot, saying Adnan had actually been the first choice for the West Indies tour as well. He also said Sarfraz Ahmed, who has been named among the reserve players, is very much on the selectors' radars.
"Adnan was selected, he was our first choice but after some confusion Salman went to the West Indies. That is history now and after a positive meeting with PCB chairman Ijaz Butt, that matter was resolved amicably and the confusion cleared up. We also have another bright wicketkeeping prospect in Sarfraz Ahmed who we have named among the standby players."
While Pakistan have gone in with a new-look bowling attack for the tour, the batting line-up has more familiar faces such as like Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. But Mohsin said the time had come for some of the younger players to prepare to fill the positions Misbah and Younis will vacate when they retire.
"We are trying to create a group of responsible batsmen to back up the experienced batsmen and the likes of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq are definitely in that mould. Umar Akmal is another young exciting batsman who I feel has a bright future. The onus now on the selectors is to ensure that we have enough middle-order backup so that when the two senior batsmen do eventually call it a day, then there are able replacements."
The squad for the Zimbabwe tour includes three uncapped players: Cheema, Rameez Raja and Yasir Shah. Raja's call-up comes on the back of consistent domestic performance in all formats. He was the leading run-getter in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Division One last season, and was top of the run charts again during the recent Faysal Bank Super Eight Twenty20 Cup. Mohsin said what also influenced his selection was Raja's reputation as a lively fielder.
"We felt that the tour of Zimbabwe was the ideal time to give Rameez a chance in international cricket. Rameez is a cricketer who also fields well and this is something that my colleagues in the selection committee and I have really focused upon."
Pakistan's tour of Zimbabwe begins with a two-day practice game starting August 28, and will feature one Test, three ODIs and two Twenty20 internationals.