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Babar Azam among 5 key Pakistan players rested for T20s

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Shadab Khan will lead Pakistan's new-look Twenty20 team in the three-match series against Afghanistan after selectors on Monday rested five senior players, including all-format captain Babar Azam, as part of its workload management.

Fast bowlers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf, along with Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman, will also miss next week’s series in the United Arab Emirates. All three games are scheduled to be played in Sharjah on March 24, 26 and 27.

For more than a year, Babar and Rizwan have represented Pakistan in almost all the games in the three formats while Fakhar, Rauf and Afridi have battled injuries.

Chief selector Haroon Rasheed said that the selection committee wanted to enhance the pool of players with an eye on next year’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States.

“This will help us to strengthen our pool of players as we look forward to building and preparing a formidable side for next year’s T20 World Cup,” Rasheed said.

Saim Ayub, who scored 309 runs in 10 Pakistan Super League games and opened with Babar for Peshawar Zalmi, is among four uncapped players named in the 15-member squad.

Fast bowler Ihsanullah, middle-order batter Tayyab Tahir and fast bowler Zaman Khan are the others who have impressed with their performances in the PSL.

“The series against Afghanistan is the training ground to test our youngsters,” said Najam Sethi, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s management committee. “I have talked to all the rested senior players and have told them that they will remain (an) integral part of the national team in future.”

Sethi said Shadab was logical choice to lead Pakistan in the short series against Afghanistan because the all-rounder had been Pakistan’s vice-captain in white-ball cricket for the last couple of years.

The PCB chairman said all five rested senior players will be recalled with Babar again taking up the captaincy for Pakistan’s home series against New Zealand in April.

All-rounder Imad Wasim, who scored 404 runs in the PSL and also took nine wickets, returned to the national team after last playing in the T20 World Cup in the UAE in 2021.

Wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan, Abdullah Shafique and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf also made their comebacks as selectors dropped power-hitter Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah and Mohammad Hasnain, who all were part of the team which competed at the T20 World Cup in Australia.

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Squad: Shadab Khan (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan.

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