Mohammad Asif has been recalled to the Pakistan squad for the ODI series against Sri Lanka and has also been named vice-captain for the series. The 16-man squad contains only two new faces for the three-match series in Abu Dhabi, despite Pakistan's poor showing in the Caribbean. Asif missed the World Cup due to an elbow injury.
Nasim Ashraf, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, told reporters in Lahore after an ad-hoc committee meeting that Asif was the best choice as vice-captain. Asif's name, along with that of Shahid Afridi, had cropped up over the last few weeks though with such minimal experience still behind him, the move will surprise many. And with a possible face-off with WADA still in the offing over the doping crisis he was embroiled in last year, the appointment is bound to raise questions and eyebrows.
There are few other surprises in the squad. Fawad Alam, the young Karachi allrounder, who had such an outstanding domestic season, has expectedly taken his place in the squad. And Najaf Shah, a left-arm fast medium bowler who plays for PIA and Rawalpindi, has also been called up after an impressive domestic season and some equally impressive performances in the trial matches played between the 39 probables that attended the recent camp at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
Shoaib Malik, who will be captaining Pakistan for the first time, stressed that the new players were the best available. "These are all deserving players and it is the best team available to us. The selection committee discussed the names with me and the decision was taken between us."
Salahuddin Ahmed, chairman of the selection committee, agreed, telling telepk.com that this was the best available squad. "Sri Lanka are missing a few key players and so are we for a number of reasons but we have picked the best available squad. We are confident that this squad can do well."
Kamran Akmal, for the time being, retains his place as the leading wicketkeeper in the land. Without an understudy in sight, the move is seen as a vote of confidence in him by a new, empowered selection committee.
Opener Salman Butt has also made a comeback into the squad, having been dropped after a disappointing tour to England last year. Talat Ali, recently appointed manager of the team for two years, will also be the acting coach for the three-match series.
Pakistan are without Younis Khan and Shoaib Akhtar. Younis is currently turning out for Yorkshire, while Shoaib is not yet fully fit.
Shoaib Malik (capt), Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal (wk), Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar, Najaf Shah.