Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent
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Pakistan have recalled batting allrounder Iftikhar Ahmed for upcoming three-match T20I series in Bangladesh. The selectors have retained 17 of the 18 players part of the ongoing T20 World Cup, with Mohammad Hafeez missing out after he requested to be left out to "allow youngsters opportunities to perform and gain international exposure," as per a PCB release. The series is set to start in Dhaka from November 19.
One of the favourites to make the T20 squad, Iftikhar lost out because the selectors preferred the experience of Shoaib Malik. Iftikhar has had formidable T20 numbers this year: his 654 T20 runs have come at an average of 54.50. He has struck them at 145.98.
Together with Iftikhar, Pakistan will have Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah in the middle order. It's likely the benched players from the World Cup will all be provided an opportunity against Bangladesh, where they have the freedom to pick from 18 members.
Hafeez, the second-longest serving Pakistan cricketer currently after Malik, has made way upon his request, but it's unclear if he has retired from the game altogether. He had originally planned to retire in November last year after the T20 World Cup in Australia, only to reconsider his decision due to the postponement of the tournament.
He had recently ducked a retirement question, saying he would "decide what to do" after the T20 World Cup. On their part, however, the PCB made it clear that Hafeez had discussed his unavailability for the current tour with chief selector Muhammad Wasim.
Ramiz Raja, the current PCB chairman, was one of the high-profile voices to ask Hafeez and fellow veteran Malik to "retire gracefully". The PCB is keen on rebuilding the side after a slew of resignations, including that of former head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis less than a month before the World Cup.
Saqlain Mushtaq is currently the head coach on an interim basis, with new full-time coaching staff yet to be finalised. Mathew Hayden's short-term gig as batting coach is set to end after the ongoing T20 World Cup, while Vernon Philander will extend his stay for the three T20Is and the first Test in Bangladesh.
The Pakistan team will fly out to Dhaka from UAE and enter into the another bio-secure bubble formed in Dhaka. The three-match T20I series will be followed by two Tests in Chattogram (November 26-30) and Dhaka (December 4-8). The squad for the Test series will be announced by November 15.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali , Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir