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We take a look at five options Pakistan selectors may consider when choosing who should replace injured pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi at the Asia Cup.
Pakistan suffered a massive blow on Saturday when star pacer Shaheen Afridi was ruled out of the upcoming Asia Cup tournament due to the knee injury he picked up while fielding during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.
Afridi is expected to return to full fitness in time for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia later this year, with the tall left-armer to remain with Pakistan’s white-ball squad while he undergoes his rehabilitation.
The Pakistan Cricket Board have already indicated a replacement for Afridi at the upcoming Asia Cup will be announced shortly and we look at five possible options that selectors could opt for.
Recall a proven performer in Hasan Ali
The right-armer was a notable omission when selectors first chose Pakistan’s squad for the Asia Cup and a prompt recall should not be discounted. Ali’s form since last year’s T20 World Cup has been indifferent and selectors chose to leave him out of their initial Asia Cup plans when selecting their 15-player squad for the six-team tournament. But the right-armer is a proven performer at international level and would likely slot in seamlessly if given a reprieve by selectors. Mohammad Hasnain and Hussain Talat are other options that may be considered.
Need a lefty, so select Mir Hamza
If selectors are looking for a like for like selection to replace Afridi, then fellow left-armer Mir Hamza appears the next best option. Hamza has played only once for Pakistan – a solitary Test against Australia in Abu Dhabi in 2018 – but only recently featured in a warm-up match in Lahore against Babar Azam’s ODI squad that travelled to the Netherlands and is sure to be in the back of selectors’ minds. Some may see a call-up for Hamza as a major surprise, but if it’s a left-arm quick that selectors want then the 29-year-old is clearly the best option.
Take a punt on exciting youngster Zaman Khan
A left-field selection would be to include fiery young pacer Zaman Khan, who impressed during this year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League when he took 18 wickets for the Lahore Qalandars. The 20-year-old has already drawn comparisons with legendary Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga and Pakistan could do worse than giving the right-armer his first taste of the big time.
Spin can win in the desert
The pitches in the UAE are expected to provide some assistance to spin, so could Pakistan benefit from including another spinner in their squad? Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood is already travelling with Pakistan’s white-ball squad in the Netherlands and could extend his stay during the Asia Cup, while left-armer Danish Aziz is another slow bowler who could perform well if given the chance.
Stick with the pace attack already in squad
Often the easiest decision for selectors is to not name a replacement and just put faith in the players that were already chosen in the first place. Pakistan have a solid group of quicks without Afridi – Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Shahnawaz Dahani are already in the squad – so there are no guarantees a replacement player would earn a spot in the XI ahead of any of this quartet of pace bowlers.
Pakistan squad for the Asia Cup: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir.
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