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Pakistan prepares for the World Cup with another series against New Zealand.

Pakistan prepares for the World Cup with another series against New Zealand.

Pakistan’s preparations for the T20 World Cup are quite elaborate. It began with the tour of New Zealand in January this year, where they played five T20Is, followed by the Pakistan Super League. They are now set to host New Zealand for another five-match T20I series, tour Ireland for three T20Is, followed by four more 20-over matches against England. Although the upcoming series will be against a primarily second-string New Zealand team, Pakistan will be hoping to gain the most out of it as they build up towards the ICC event to be held in the West Indies and the United States of America from June 1.

Change is a constant in Pakistan cricket

This will be Pakistan’s third T20I series against New Zealand since 2023. When New Zealand visited the country in April 2023, and drew the series 2-2, Babar Azam was the captain. After their below-par showing in the 50-over World Cup, Babar relinquished the role in all formats and Shaheen Afridi was named the T20I skipper for the tour of New Zealand. This was when Zaka Ashraf was the PCB chairman. Under the new captain, Pakistan ended up losing four games and soon enough Babar was back as skipper, shortly after Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi was elected the new chairman of PCB.

The selection committee has changed with Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Asad Shafiq, and Wahab Riaz being named in the new panel. And the coaching staff is also different now. Mickey Arthur, Grant Bradburn, Andrew Puttick, and Morne Morkel were with the side in the 2023 World Cup. Mohammad Hafeez was the team director during the Australia and New Zealand tours, with Adam Hollioake, Umar Gul, and Saeed Ajmal also being included in the coaching group. And now, Azhar Mahmood has been unveiled as the new head coach, with Mohammad Yousuf taking over as batting coach, Saeed Ajmal continuing as spin coach, and Wahab Riaz being named the team manager.

There has been a lot happening off the field, which isn’t unusual with Pakistan cricket. The PCB was even forced to have crisis talks following the reinstatement of Babar, due to a statement attributed to Shaheen which the left-arm pacer refuted. There has been an uneasy calm for some time but with Pakistan cricket, trouble is never too far away. Now with the T20 World Cup looming they will be hoping it just doesn’t unsettle the players and the team environment, as they look to bring the focus back on cricket.

Unretirements and returns, and new faces

This, too, isn’t anything new in Pakistan cricket. Players announcing their retirements and then returning to the team after a while. Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim are the latest to join the bandwagon and they’ll be keen to make an impression with the world event coming up. “The decision to include Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir was a straightforward one, given their availability for selection and considering Haris Rauf’s injury and Mohammad Nawaz’s current form. Both Amir and Imad possess undeniable match-winning capabilities, and we trust they will consistently deliver strong performances to bolster the team’s objectives,” Wahab was quoted as saying.

Pakistan Set to ready for World cup

The 32-year-old Amir bagged 10 wickets in nine matches for Quetta Gladiators in PSL 2024, averaging 28.60 with an economy of 8.41. Wasim picked up 12 wickets, including one fifer, and averaged 20.91 with an economy of 6.60 in the PSL. He also scored 126 runs, including a half-century, and led Islamabad United well on their path to the title.

Pakistan’s 17-member squad also includes two uncapped players in Usman Khan and Muhammad Irfan Khan. The 28-year-old Usman was the second-highest run-getter in the PSL, scoring 430 runs in just seven innings at an average of 107.50 and a strike rate of 164.12, with two hundreds and two fifties. Irfan, 21, featured in eight innings for Karachi Kings, scoring 171 runs at an average of 42.75 with a strike rate of 140.16.

A chance for NZ players to make the World Cup case

Meanwhile, the Michael Bracewell-led New Zealand team will be eager to come up with solid performances in the absence of the big names and put themselves in the reckoning for selection for the big event. As many as 12 players were unavailable for this series when the team was first selected. Trent Boult, Devon Conway (injury), Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitch Santner, and Kane Williamson were away on IPL duty while Will Young (winter contract with Nottinghamshire), Tom Latham (awaiting the birth of the second child), Tim Southee (conditioning), and Colin Munro were also unavailable for selection.

New Zealand was further hampered with opener Finn Allen (back injury) and pacer Adam Milne (ankle injury) getting ruled out before the team’s departure to Pakistan. Wicketkeeper Tom Blundell and uncapped allrounder Zak Foulkes were named as replacements in the team. It will be a new-look side with newbie Tim Robinson and Will O’Rourke, uncapped in the format, also part of the setup.


Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohmmad Amir, Muhammad

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