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Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad return to Pakistan T20I squad

Umar Akmal hits out Getty Images

Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal, two batsmen who have seen precious little international action in the recent past, are back in the Pakistan T20I set-up for the Sri Lanka series, recalled after 16 months and three years respectively.

The side also welcomes back Faheem Ashraf, who missed out on a central contract this year, while Mohammad Rizwan and Abid Ali miss out. Imam-ul-Haq isn't part of the squad either, but his exclusion, according to a PCB statement, is due to the hand injury he sustained during the second ODI against Sri Lanka in Karachi.

Shehzad last featured in a T20I in June 2018 against Scotland. He was subsequently out of the reckoning after being suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. Umar, meanwhile, lost his place in 2016 when he was involved in a public spat with then head coach Mickey Arthur, leading to a three-match ban and a PKR 1 million (US$ 6300 approx) fine, with the PCB also revoking no-objection certificates for the player to play in overseas leagues for two months.

There might be some awkward reunions in the side, particularly between Shehzad and Umar, and the newly appointed bowling coach Waqar Younis. As head coach until the 2016 World T20, Waqar had resigned with scathing parting shots aimed at both players. He had said that sacrificing "one Umar Akmal will allow us to develop other players who can truly and proudly wear the star on their chest and represent Pakistan". He had also said Shehzad should be made to re-earn his place in the national side after performing in domestic cricket. In a recent press conference, Waqar drew attention to that last remark, insisting he had never said he wanted the two to be kept away from the national side forever.

The three T20Is, all to be played at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore from October 5 to 9, will be the first multi-game series in the shortest format for Pakistan since the world's No. 1 side saw their 11-series-winning streak snapped in South Africa at the start of the year. Sarfaraz Ahmed, however, was not part of that series, and has still yet to lose a series as captain.

Iftikhar Ahmed has been recalled to the T20I side as well, his solitary game in the format having come in 2016 against Sri Lanka, a match where he did not get to either bat or bowl. Mohammad Nawaz could also play his first T20I in over a year, after being picked alongside Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Iftikhar to form a strong spin contingent.