The five-match ODI series between Pakistan and Australia which will begin in the UAE towards the end of March is important for for Australia. This is the last international assignment before the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 which will begin on May 30 in England for the five-time world champions. Australia left out Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith and David Warner for this series and Pakistan has followed suit, naming their ODI squad with some few surprises. Shoaib Malik, who is the last of the cricketers active from the 90s, has been named as captain for the series after the Pakistan Cricket Board opted to rest regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed for the series.
Malik, whose last captaincy stint in ODIs was way back in 2009, was appointed the temporary skipper for the last two ODIs in South Africa recently after Sarfraz was banned for four games for a ‘racist’ slur against South Africa pacer Andile Phehlukwayo. In addition to Malik being appointed full-time captain for the Australia series, the squad also sees the return of Umar Akmal and Junaid Khan. Umar’s last ODI appearance was against Australia in Adelaide in 2017 while left-arm pacer Junaid last played an ODI in 2018 during the series against New Zealand.
The players who have been rested apart from Sarfraz are Babar Azam, Shaheen Afridi, Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan. Speaking about the changes, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq stated that the players needed to be given adequate rest before the start of the World Cup. Pakistan play three warm-up games in addition to five ODIs against England. This will be followed by two warm-up games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh before the start of the tournament.
I am pleased we have been able to develop a strong bench-strength that has helped us make eight changes from the previous series," Inzamam told a press conference. "With a stronger bench we can have a stronger Pakistan team. This is a good sign for Pakistan cricket as we now have a big pool of players who have the capability, talent and potential, and are raring to step up and seize the opportunity when thrown at the deep end.
“This is too much cricket in a short period of time. Had there been no pre-World Cup matches in England, then we would not have made such changes. With a stronger bench we can have a stronger Pakistan team. This is a good sign for Pakistan cricket as we now have a big pool of players who have the capability, talent and potential, and are raring to step up and seize the opportunity when thrown at the deep end,” Inzamam said in a press conference announcing the squad.
Inzamam said the decision to rest Shadab was to ease his workload, with the spinner having played 40 International games across formats in the last one year. Mohammad Hasnain has grabbed eyeballs in the ongoing Pakistan Super League as he regularly touched 150 kmph. In four games, he has taken five wickets for Quetta Gladiators and has been touted for bigger things. The five-match series will begin on March 22 and end on March 31.