The Pakistan selectors have retained offspinner Bilal Asif for the ODI series against Zimbabwe, in a bid to assess his credentials ahead of the England Test series. The idea is to have someone to fill the bowling hole left by Mohammad Hafeez, who has been banned for one year for an illegal bowling action.
Asif was originally only part of the T20 squad visiting Zimbabwe, but did not make it to the playing XI. He was also selected for Sri Lanka ODI series but returned without making a debut. Almost 30, he has 32 wickets in 11 first-class games at 28.90 apiece.
"The request to retain Bilal Asif had been made by the team management, as conveyed by the manager Mr Intikhab Alam," chief selector Haroon Rashid said in a statement. "In a separate discussion with Misbah-ul-Haq, it was put forth by the Pakistan Test captain that since the England team contains five left-handed batsmen and because of Hafeez's inability to bowl at international level, we were left with no offspin bowling options in the Test squad."
Pakistan have picked two other spinners for England series - legspinner Yasir Shah and left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar. The selectors named Hafeez as a specialist batsman in the squad, along with two more openers - Ahmed Shehzad and Shan Masood, with Azhar Ali the No. 3 batsman.
"Misbah suggested that since Bilal Asif is presently the standout available option in the domestic circuit, so if we can try him in the ODI matches against Zimbabwe for assessing his offspin bowling credentials, it may help us in case we intended to add him as the 16th member in the Test squad against England," Rashid said.
"We have already picked two left-arm spin bowlers in the Pak 'A' team to the UAE for this purpose but if Bilal Asif is found up to the mark in Zimbabwe, then we can have him in the Test squad as an offspinner along with leggie Yasir Shah and left-arm spin of Zulfiqar Babar. The suggestion was discussed by the selectors, as well as with head coach Waqar Younis, and there was unanimity of view on the issue."
Pakistan play three ODIs in Zimbabwe, starting on October 1.