By Rizwan Ali
Shahid Afridi was left out of Pakistan’s squad for the Champions Trophy after the allrounder’s poor one-day international form during the past year.
Afridi has scored only 161 runs at an average of 17.88 and taken just four wickets at an astonishing cost of 113.75 runs each in the last 12 ODIs, leading selectors to exclude him from the eight-team competition in England in June.
Chief selector Iqbal Qasim believes Afridi could still make a comeback to international cricket if the veteran of 354 ODIs lifts his game.
“It’s not like that his career is over,” Qasim said after the lengthy meeting with selectors in Lahore. “He is an asset to Pakistan and he can always make a comeback. As long as a player is performing, he keeps on playing. If he doesn’t perform, he goes out of the team.”
Qasim picked Afridi for the five-match ODI series against South Africa in March purely as a legspinner, saying it could be his last chance to perform at international level.
Afridi was disappointing in failing to take a single wicket in five matches as Pakistan lost the series 3-2.
Fast bowler Asad Ali is the only uncapped player in the 15-man squad for the Champions Trophy.
The selectors also left out middle-order batsman Umar Akmal, who didn’t figure in the last ODI series against South Africa despite being selected in the squad. Fast bowler Umar Gul missed out as he will likely undergo a knee operation in Australia next month.
The squad includes six specialist batsmen, with experienced captain Misbah-ul-Haq forming the nucleus of the middle order. Offspinner Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik are the allrounders, while Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman are the specialist spinners.
The squad also includes five fast bowlers – Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Ehsan Adil, Ali and Wahab Riaz. They spent 10 days training at the all-time great Wasim Akram’s fast bowling camp in Karachi.
Pakistan is in Group B of the Champions Trophy alongside West Indies, South Africa and fierce rival India. Group A comprises defending champion Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
“Our team is good but our opponents are tough as compared to the other group,” Qasim said. “But our team has the ability if it plays to its potential. Whatever best resources were available we have picked.”
Trend Woodhill of Australia, who coaches Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League, was appointed Pakistan’s batting coach for the Champions Trophy.
He has coached New Zealand for four years and will join the Pakistan team in England after it plays two one-day internationals in both Scotland and Ireland next month.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Umar Amin, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Ehsan Adil, Asad Ali, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz.