Azhar Ali has been retained as Pakistan's ODI captain for the five-match series against Australia starting January 13 in Brisbane. Fast bowler Mohammad Irfan, who missed the limited-overs as well as Test series against West Indies in the UAE, returns to the squad, while Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah, who were in the squad for the ODIs against West Indies, have been dropped.
"The ODI team has been selected keeping in mind the conditions in Australia and the performances of players in the recent ODI series against West Indies and in domestic cricket," Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chief selector, said. "The team is a fine blend of experience and youth, and the selectors have decided to stick to the same combination of players selected for the West Indies series earlier. We believe that the team will do well in the tour."
A day before the first Test against Australia, PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said the board had lost trust in Azhar's leadership skills. Azhar responded with 324 runs in his next four innings, including an unbeaten 205 at the MCG.
Azhar had reportedly refused to relinquish the captaincy after the PCB asked him to step down and focus on his batting following the 4-1 series defeat in England. Azhar has had a tough 19 months since he was appointed ODI captain in March 2015, soon after the World Cup. During his tenure, Pakistan had slipped to ninth place on the ICC rankings, with 86 points, their lowest tally since the points system was introduced in 2001.
Irfan, who had been drafted into the squad for the ODIs in England as a replacement for the injured Mohammad Hafeez, bowled only five overs in the fourth ODI at Headingley, before leaving the field with cramps. He was then ruled out of the rest of the series, with his fitness leaving coach Mickey Arthur frustrated.
Irfan regained fitness ahead of the series against West Indies in the UAE, but was ignored. He has now worked his way back into the squad at the expense of Sohail, having bowled 150.3 overs for 20 wickets, including two five-wicket hauls, in WAPDA's title-winning run in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
Yasir's exclusion means Pakistan have only two frontline spinners in the 15-member squad - Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz. Kamran Akmal, who was the only player to pass 1000 runs in this season's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, was in contention for selection, but a reported disagreement between the team management and selectors saw him miss the cut. His brother Umar Akmal had earned a recall for the ODIs against West Indies, but he did not get a game. His last ODI appearance came against Australia in the 2015 World Cup.