Babar, Rizwan, Afridi, Fakhar and Haris rested for T20Is against Afghanistan

Shadab Khan to lead 15-man side, which includes breakout PSL stars Saim Ayub and Ihsanullah

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Shaheen Shah Afridi, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, among others, have been rested as part of the PCB's new workload-management policy  •  AFP/Getty Images

Shaheen Shah Afridi, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, among others, have been rested as part of the PCB's new workload-management policy  •  AFP/Getty Images

Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman and Haris Rauf have all been rested from Pakistan's squad for their upcoming series of three T20Is against Afghanistan in Sharjah. Imad Wasim has been recalled, while Shadab Khan has been named captain, and star PSL 2023 performers Saim Ayub and Ihsanullah have all received call-ups to the national team for the first time.
The new PCB selection committee for the national senior men's team, headed by Haroon Rasheed, has formed a new policy on managing workloads and player rotation. With the series against Afghanistan not a part of the ICC's Future Tours Programme, it gave the selectors a chance to try out their new plan.
"Afghanistan series is the training ground to test our youngsters," Najam Sethi, the PCB chief, said in a press interaction on Monday. "I am not worried about winning or losing to Afghanistan - if we find few talented youngsters, it will serve the purpose. The series is largely about blooding our new talent and developing them.
"Babar will remain our captain in all the three formats. I have taken all the senior players into confidence and they all will be part of the team in future, there's no question about this. Shadab Khan has been the vice-captain and an automatic choice to take captaincy in Babar's absence, so he will lead the side. He is a wonderful allrounder, scoring runs, taking wickets and showing great temperament leading Islamabad United [in the PSL]. So he is the right man to lead the young side."
ESPNcricinfo had earlier reported that the workload management of top players was a major point of discussion at a recent selection committee meeting, as they looked ahead to a year that has both an ODI Asia Cup and an ODI World Cup. Each player's workload was assessed in terms of matches played over the last two years, and Babar, Rizwan and Haris were highlighted as three players who had played a lot of cricket.
Since January 2021, Rizwan has played 150 matches across formats (international and domestic cricket) - the most after Rashid Khan's 157 - while Babar has played 127 and Rauf 125.
"The selection committee has followed the standard rotation policy by resting the leading performers and providing high-performing domestic performers with opportunities to demonstrate their talent and potential at the international level," Rasheed said after announcing the squad. "This will also allow us to test the temperament and abilities of these players and helping us to strengthen our pool of players as we look forward to building and preparing a formidable side for next year's T20 World Cup in the West Indies and United States.
"But we also have ensured that we select a side that is equally strong and capable of winning the series against a strong Afghanistan side for whom Sharjah is like a second home. And to achieve that, we have retained seven players from the last series, recalled four experienced cricketers and clubbed them with four uncapped players to make the 15-member side truly a mixture of youth and experience."

Star PSL performers Saim Ayub and Ihsanullah rewarded

Among the new faces, Ayub has been the most impressive this PSL, scoring 309 runs in ten matches for Peshawar Zalmi at a strike rate of 167.02.
Tayyab Tahir has shown glimpses of becoming an explosive T20 batter, hitting 137 runs at strike rate of 144.21 for Karachi Kings. This after scoring 413 runs at a strike rate of 138 at the National T20 Cup.
Multan Sultans have brought out a fast-bowling sensation in Ihsanullah, who has 20 wickets in the ongoing PSL season, while Lahore Qalandars' Zaman Khan has taken 12 wickets so far and has made a name as a specialist death bowler.
Of the more familiar names, Abdullah Shafique has made an impression in the PSL too, with 193 runs at a strike rate of 144.02; Faheem Ashraf has returned after playing match-winning knocks for United this season, and has 210 runs at a strike rate of 147.88; Imad's return follows his 404 runs in ten innings at a strike rate of 170.46 (plus nine wickets) for Kings.
Pakistan squad for T20I series against Afghanistan: Shadab Khan (capt), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan
Reserve players: Abrar Ahmed, Haseebullah, Usama Mir

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent