• 13 Apr - 19 Apr, 2024
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Babar Azam To Lead Pakistan In White Ball Cricket
The PCB had announced last month that Babar Azam was appointed as the captain of the Pakistan side in white-ball cricket. This announcement brought Shaheen Shah Afridi’s brief tenure as T20I captain to a close.

“The PCB’s selection committee, having reached a unanimous decision, led Chairman PCB Mohsin Naqvi to appoint Babar Azam as the captain for the white-ball (ODI and T20I) formats of the Pakistan men’s cricket team,” was the statement released by the PCB on X.

Previously, Babar had hesitantly resigned from the captaincy after the PCB expressed its intent to find a replacement in November, a move that saw Afridi stepping in as captain. At that moment, Afridi was widely considered the leading candidate for the ODI captaincy as well, though the developments that followed diminished those chances.

A majority of the four new members of the selection panel seemed to support Babar’s reinstatement as captain, despite him having specific conditions before agreeing to take on the role again. In his talks with the PCB, he sought assurances that he would not be hastily replaced following the T20I World Cup in June, demanding a more extended tenure and significantly more say in selection matters.

It was clear that confidence In Afridi’s leadership had quickly diminished following his stewardship of Pakistan in one series and his role with the PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars. Under his leadership, Pakistan was defeated 4-1 in the T20I series against New Zealand, and the Qalandars managed only a single win in ten matches, ending up last in the PSL standings. Afridi, who was still 23, was initially seen as a promising captain who could grow with experience and lead for a long duration. Upon his return as captain, Babar’s first challenge was leading the team in a five-match T20I home series against New Zealand the following month.

Pakistan V New Zealand T20I Series
The Kiwis are scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on April 14 and will play three matches in Rawalpindi from April 18 to 21, followed by two more matches at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on April 25 and 27. The tour was approved after a security delegation conducted a routine visit to Pakistan in February this year, a procedure required by several countries, notably Australia and New Zealand. This marks New Zealand’s third visit to Pakistan since December 2022.

Similar to last April, this series coincides with the Indian Premier League (IPL), meaning that several key T20 cricketers from New Zealand are likely to be unavailable.

This tour serves as New Zealand’s final international commitment before the T20 World Cup in June, and it also marks the beginning of Pakistan’s preparation for the event, with the first five of twelve T20Is scheduled before the tournament. Usman Wahla, the PCB’s director of international cricket, emphasized the significance of the tour, stating, “This tour reflects the strong ties and mutual respect between our two cricketing nations. Our passionate cricket fans and the people of Pakistan eagerly await the arrival of the New Zealand team, and we anticipate another fiercely competitive series, crucial to our preparations for this year’s ICC T20 World Cup.”

Men In Green Trained By Army
Pakistan’s cricketers teamed up with another iconic institution of the country, the Pakistan Army, from March 25 to April 8 in a ten-day training camp. “When I was watching the matches in Lahore, I didn’t think a single one of you hit a six that went into the stands,” PCB Chairman Mohsin Naqvi said. “Whenever a six like that was hit, I used to think a foreign player must have hit that. I asked the board to make a plan to get every player’s fitness up to speed. You had to make a proper effort for that.

“We had New Zealand coming up, then Ireland, England and the T20 World Cup. I wondered, ‘When will we train?’ but there was no time. However, we found a window, where we organized a camp in Kakul (military academy) from March 25 to April 8. The Pakistan Army was involved in your training, and hopefully, they helped you out.”

An intensive training camp in one of the few windows the players would otherwise have rested was likely to be unpopular, especially as it was preceded by six months of virtually non-stop cricket, and followed by several bilateral series leading up to the T20 World Cup.

There was, however, precedent for Pakistan cricket involving the military in training. Misbah-ul-Haq’s Pakistan famously organised a training camp with the military at Kakul academy before a Test series against England.

Pakistan To Tour Ireland
The PCB has revealed that Pakistan’s three-match T20I tour of Ireland is scheduled for May 10, 12, and 14, with the matches set to take place at Castle Avenue in Dublin. This series is part of Pakistan’s preparation for the T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies in June, comprising a 12-match buildup.

Pakistan’s most recent action came in a T20I series against New Zealand, where they played five matches hosted by New Zealand in January. The last time Pakistan visited Ireland was for Ireland’s inaugural Test match in 2018, marking the last encounter between the two teams across formats.

Meanwhile, Ireland enters the T20Is against Pakistan following defeats in ODI and T20I series against Afghanistan in the UAE earlier this month, although they did secure a historic first Test win in Abu Dhabi to start off that tour.

Mohammad Amir Comes Out Of Retirement
Mohammad Amir had made himself available for selection to Pakistan for the T20 World Cup that started on June 1 in the USA and the West Indies. Amir’s last match for Pakistan had been a T20I against England in 2020, and he had retired from international cricket in December that year

“I still dreamed to play for Pakistan!” Amir, aged 31, had said in a post on social media. “Life brought us to points where at times we had to reconsider our decisions. There had been a few positive discussions between myself and the PCB where they respectfully made me feel that I was needed and could still play for Pakistan, and after discussing with family and well-wishers, I declared that I was available to be considered for the upcoming T20 WC.

“I wanted to do this for my country as it came before my personal decisions. Donning the green jersey and serving my country had always been, and would continue to be, my greatest aspiration.”

Amir had most recently played in the 2024 PSL, where he had finished with 10 wickets in nine games with an economy of 8.41 for Quetta Gladiators. Amir’s announcement had come a day after all-rounder Imad Wasim had reversed his retirement and also made himself available for selection for the T20 World Cup.

While Amir had an unremarkable PSL campaign, his performances in the CPL in recent seasons had stood him in promising stead for a World Cup that was largely held in the West Indies. He had taken 43 wickets at an average of 14.39 and an economy rate of just 6.50. With Shaheen not at full tilt since his injury return, Naseem only recently back from a lengthy layoff, and Haris Rauf currently injured, Pakistan’s pace bowling stocks had been depleted, potentially giving Amir the opportunity to elbow his way in.

Usman Khan To Play For Pakistan
Pakistan-born top-order batter Usman Khan, who represents the UAE, was invited to Pakistan’s training camp alongside 28 other players at Kakul. This move signals Pakistan’s keen interest in persuading him to play international cricket for his country of birth.

Usman had cited the uncertainty in Pakistan and the ease of obtaining no-objection certificates from the Emirates Cricket Board as reasons for considering a switch in allegiance. However, since he has not yet played for the UAE, Usman retains the option to switch back to Pakistan without any waiting period. Nevertheless, given the rapid developments at the PCB’s end, it appears highly likely that Usman will be included in Pakistan’s squad for the upcoming five-match T20I series against New Zealand, with a strong focus on the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the USA in June.