After delays and confusion about the date, the Pakistan squad for the triangular in Sri Lanka was finally announced on April 29 by the PCB chairman rather than by the chief selector who held a press conference a day later.

The squad does look a balanced outfit, with an impressive pace attack, complemented by a batting line-up that is a blend of experience and youth.

There were four changes in the recent Sharjah team, with Naved-ul-Hasan, Naved Latif, Mohammad Zahid and Misbah-ul-Haq missing out. While replacing Naved Latif was always on the cards after a poor display in Sharjah plus a disciplinary issue, the others may consider themselves unlucky.

Pacer Zahid got no opportunity to prove his mettle, and after a poor showing in the selection trial matches, as did most of the fast bowlers on Gaddafi's flat track, he was left out. While some may disagree due to fond memories of his fine beginning some years ago but after his back injury, Zahid has lost pace, and is really no longer his old self.

Young Shabbir Ahmed performed well in domestic cricket and deserves his place. He has corrected his somewhat dodgy action and bowled with a great deal of control in the selection matches.

Naved-ul-Hasan was impressive in Sharjah and it may seem a bit cruel to see him left out but the reason quoted is understandable. The selectors are following the policy of picking players according to expected playing conditions for each tour. On flat but turning wickets of Sri Lanka, a medium pacer is not likely to do too well and the need is for a genuine pacer like Shoaib Akhtar.

Naved-ul-Hasan must understand a great future still lies ahead for him, and he might just be picked for the seamer friendly conditions in England in June.

As for Shoaib, who carries a reputation as the 'bad boy of Pakistani cricket', many have questioned his inclusion while pointing out he has failed in domestic matches after the World Cup, where his performance in crucial games was simply atrocious. Whilst that may be true, the chief selector Aamer Sohail sounded convincing when he said Pakistan were in desperate need for another attacking bowler to complement Mohammad Sami.

Umar Gul serves well as the line and length bowler with the new ball, but a first change bowler is required to have some venom to knock the wind out of the opposition's sails in the middle overs. Shoaib is capable of doing that, and with PCB boss Tauqir Zia making it perfectly clear no indiscipline will be tolerated, he is likely to shape-up.

Shoaib is still a vital asset for Pakistan. Admittedly, despite PCB's heavy investment his performances have been a mixed bag at best - moments of sheer match-winning brilliance and some mindless bowling coupled with fitness issues. He now has perhaps a final but an ideal chance to let his bowling do the talking and should operate as the first-change bowler and not be handed the new ball.

Umar Gul who utilizes the seam well and bowls a tight line, the order of the day at the start of an ODI will be the best foil for Sami who has clearly shown pace, penetration and the ability to swing the ball.

Danish Kaneria should be the lead spinner and depending on playing conditions, may even swap places with Shoaib Akhtar in the playing eleven.

Other inclusions to look out for are young batsmen Yasir Hameed and Faisal Athar. While Misbah did look good in his single outing in Sharjah, he has not yet displayed the best technique, so had to make way to give some promising youngsters a go.

Yasir Hameed has had an excellent domestic season and shown great maturity batting at the crucial one-down slot but Faisal Athar is a bit of an unknown entity. He plays for Hyderabad and Sui Gas in domestic cricket, but few were predicting his inclusion. However, Aamer has made it quite clear the selectors are picking players based on 'visible' talent rather than mere statistics. The decision to include Mohammed Hafeez for Sharjah did pay dividends and Faisal Athar has been similarly praised by Aamer.

The one-down slot is up for grabs, it will be interesting to watch these two new faces in a three-way fight which includes Faisal Iqbal.

It is important to discuss the oppositions Pakistan is pitted against, in this next challenge during the re-building phase. This triangular is sure to test the mental strength and ability of the youthful side.

Sri Lanka has stabilized after the captaincy issue was resolved, and will be dangerous especially on home grounds. The pitches there are likely to produce sharp turn, and the batsmen will be thoroughly tested by the magical Muralitharan.

New Zealand is the side to look out for, and it remains to be seen how Pakistan's opening pair deals with Shane Bond fast becoming one of the best swing bowlers in current cricket and his sharp in-swing should be quite a handful. The New Zealand batting order also looks in good touch, with Fleming already in brilliant form in Sri Lanka.

Pakistan's performance in this tournament will clearly indicate whether they can consider themselves back amongst the top five ODI sides or still languish near the bottom.

Whatever the final outcome, the policy of persisting with youth with Rashid Latif at the helm should be continued for the next assignment in England. Players can only learn by being out in the middle, and it would be premature to expect them to massacre an opposition when they are so new at the international level.

If the team can carry forward the ability, spirit and commitment shown in Sharjah, they certainly have a good chance of victory in the upcoming tournament.

Ed: If readers wish to correspond with the author, please email Taha Noor