Unbeaten Pakistan call up Mohammad Haris for NZ T20Is as Shadab Khan sidelined with ankle injury

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Mohammad Haris is excluded from Pakistan’s 17-man squad for the five-match T20I series in New Zealand starting January 12th. Haris, out of the Pakistan set-up since the Asia Cup in September, is one of two notable absentees in the squad, along with Shadab Khan, who had to miss out due to an ankle injury. However, Wahab Riaz, Pakistan’s chief selector, confirmed that both players are still part of the team’s long-term plans. “Shadab is a very important member of Pakistan T20 cricket and he’s a white-ball specialist. Unfortunately, he got injured during the season; he twisted his ankle which will take another two weeks for rehab. He will be available to bowl after that. Haris is rested because there were some first-class performers and we saw Harris’ capability and since he’s part of our plans going forward, we want to use our pool of players.”Pakistan have been dealing with international cricket without first-choice fast bowler Naseem Shah who has been injured since September, and while they won’t have him for this tour either, there was good news. “Ihsanullah, Shadab, Mohammad Hasnain, and Naseem Shah were unfit,” Wahab said. “The good news is Hasnain and Naseem have recovered and Naseem is undergoing rehab at the cricket academy and we don’t want to overload him so he will be available for the PSL next year. Same for Hasnain – he is returning and we’ve called him at the academy so we can assess him. Ihsanullah will unfortunately take more time and I’m not sure right now if he’ll play in the PSL or not. Shadab will also come to the academy after his ankle injury and he’ll undergo rehab.””All three wicketkeepers-batters are proven performers in domestic and international cricket,” Wahab said. “In the last few years, we weren’t able to create back-ups. Going forward into the World Cup, we want to create those back-ups and try some of the boys. Haseebullah played in the middle order for Peshawar Zalmi and played some impactful innings. Overall he has been performing very well for the last few years in white-ball cricket. “Haseeb also opens in domestic but we have to develop our Nos. 4 to 7 which has troubled us in the past. Now we are in a building phase so we know before the World Cup who our Nos. 4 to 7 are, who will grab the opportunities. Keeping that in mind, we picked Haseebullah because he is a proven performer and he has that ability where his strike-rate (120.65) is very high. We want to develop such players so they don’t have a problem in the West Indies.”Pakistan will also be without Shan Masood, who Wahab said was among the probables, but ultimately not considered; They, instead, have decided to “invest” in “impact player” Azam. “We’ve watched Azam very closely and at times it happens that you’ve to prefer skills over fitness. A player winning you a match is much more important than anything else,” Wahab said. “We’ve spoken to Azam about fitness levels and we’ve sent him a very clear message that we want to invest in you but you have to respond as well. Obviously you can’t expect someone to lose 10-15kgs in 10 days so Azam will travel with the team. He’s an impact player so we want to give him a chance and keep an eye on his fitness levels.”Haris Rauf, whom Wahab claimed had backed out of playing the ongoing Test series against Australia, will return in Pakistan colours in New Zealand.Shaheen Shah Afridi (capt), Aamer Jamal, Abbas Afridi, Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Haseebullah Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim, Sahibzada Farhan, Saim Ayub, Usama Mir, Zaman Khan

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