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Kamran Akmal returns to Pakistan ODI and T20I squads

Ahmed Shehzad, who had been overlooked for a year, also finds a spot in the limited-overs squads for the tour of West Indies. Azhar Ali, the former 50-over captain, was dropped

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Kamran Akmal has been recalled to the national team after three years while Ahmed Shehzad, who had been overlooked for a year, made a return to the T20I and ODI sides for Pakistan's tour to the West Indies. Azhar Ali, who had been captain of the 50-over side as recently as January, has been dropped.
The selection committee, headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq, also called up five uncapped players while fast bowler Mohammad Amir has been rested for the T20 format.
Kamran, 35, last featured for Pakistan during the 2014 World T20 and has not been in contention for the national side since his central contract was cut the same year. He was, however, prolific on the domestic circuit in the 2014-15 season, scoring 900 first-class runs at 52.94 and 576 List A runs at 52.36. In the subsequent year, he made 480 first-class runs at 60 and 576 List A runs at 72. He was the top-scorer with 1035 runs at 79.61 in the recent first-class season and was the leading run-scorer in the second edition of Pakistan Super League with a tally of 353.
Shehzad, 25, has not been part of the Pakistan team since the 2016 World T20 due to disciplinary issues. He fought his way back into contention after hitting three hundreds in the departmental one-day cup, amassing 653 runs at an average of 93.28 earlier this year. He combined a number of low scores with a few impressive knocks in this year's PSL and did enough to restore selectors' faith in him. With Pakistan searching for openers after Sharjeel Khan's suspension for his involvement in alleged corruption in the PSL, Shehzad has been given another opportunity.
These squads were picked from a pool of 31 players who were in Lahore for a training camp and Inzamam said only one of them failed to pass a fitness test - Umar Akmal. Pakistan's head coach Mickey Arthur himself had put the players through the paces at the National Cricket Academy and has been very vocal about his men being at the peak of their physical ability.
"We had a set a fitness standard which isn't really a tough one to start with," Inzamam said. "But he still didn't meet the average level. So whoever the player is, whatever his performance is like, we could not select him. Umar being dropped is a reprimand and it's a major blow for any player. He is a good player, we needed him, but we had to take a decision."
Inzamam was sympathetic to Azhar's cause as well and said the former ODI captain remained a part of their long-term plans. "He is still in our loop for Champions Trophy in England where, considering the conditions, we probably will need our senior batsmen. But for now we wanted to encourage our junior players who can have a future with Pakistan."
Leading the uncapped players were batsman Fakhar Zaman and legspinner Shadab Khan. They were both highly impressive in the PSL and found a place in the squads for both limited-overs formats. Domestic veteran Asif Zakir, who has been playing first-class cricket for 14 years and has 123 matches under his belt, has been trusted to translate that experience on the ODI stage. Rounding off the uncapped roster were left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar and the leading wicket-taker from the 2016-17 departmental one-day cup Fahim Ashraf.
"These young players are equally good and they are going to play international cricket for the country," Inzamam said. "So they need to play at the highest level at some stage and I have full faith in them. They will perform, and conditions in the West Indies, we all know are similar to the ones in subcontinent and the West Indies team isn't like the one in the 70s, 80s or even from the 90s. But still if they face tough competition there, this will obviously help them to develop."
For the T20Is, Pakistan have picked left-arm quicks for the T20s with Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Usman Khan, who had debuted in 2013, and Rumman Raees, who was part of the previous Pakistan squad that played West Indies in the UAE in 2016. Hasan Ali offered the option of variation.
Pakistan play four T20Is, three ODIs and three Tests in the Caribbean starting on March 31.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent