Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz axed from probable World Cup squad

Umar Akmal scored 150 runs in five innings in the comeback series against Australia. © Getty

On the day Umar Akmal scored a blistering 66-ball 99 – which followed his match-winning 136* two days ago – for Balochistan in the ongoing Pakistan Cup, he was axed from the probable squad for the World Cup. Another player to miss out was Wahab Riaz, who had returned 5 for 52 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s 3-wicket win over Federal Areas a day earlier.

The Inzamam ul Haq-led national selection committee after consultations with Mickey Arthur, head coach of Pakistan, called up as many as 23 players for a fitness test on April 15 and 16 at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore following which they will announce the final squad on the 18th.

Abid Ali, who made a record for the highest score on debut in ODIs for Pakistan last week, was amongst the four openers called up for the fitness test. Eighteen-year-old quick Mohammad Hasnain, who stunned the world with his ability to generate pace and bounce in the PSL and against Australia, was also amongst the players to have been included in the list. Hasnain pulled his name from the ongoing Pakistan Cup – country’s premier List ‘A’ tournament – to work on his fitness at the NCA.

All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez has also received a call despite undergoing two surgeries on his thumb that he broke while attempting a return catch of his own bowling during Pakistan Super League (PSL) in February.

In an interesting move, the national selection committee called up Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah. The fast-bowler’s one-day form has been on a downward slope since Pakistan’s triumph in the Champions Trophy in 2017. Since that final against India, Amir averages over 92 with five wickets in 101 overs. Yasir has rarely clicked in the format, primarily due to the lack of a googly in his arsenal. The leggie was recalled for the ODI series against Australia last month. Across five matches, he picked up four wickets at an average of 70.75.

Considering Amir’s failure to strike, there had been calls to prefer Riaz, whose last ODI outing remains to be the opening match of Pakistan’s Champions Trophy campaign, after an impressive run in the PSL. Riaz ended as the third highest wicket taker this season with 17 wickets in 13 matches at an average shade below 20.

Despite his brilliant back-to-back knocks in the Pakistan Cup, Akmal was expected to be ignored. He did force a comeback after an impressive PSL but, the middle-order batsman botched his chances following lackluster performances – which saw him score 150 runs across five matches – and yet another disciplinary offence.

Pakistan depart for England on April 23 where they play as many as 11 matches – nine one-dayers and two T20s – before their World Cup opener against the Windies on May 31.

23-man shortlist

Sarfaraz Ahmed, Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hassan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah