Pakistan have called up a number of new names in a 15-man squad to face Zimbabwe in the first two of five ODIs, beginning in Karachi from January 21.
Three men - opener Nasir Jamshed, fast bowlers Samiullah Khan Niazi and Kamran Hussain - have never played for Pakistan before. Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper, and Fawad Alam, the allrounder, have only played three ODIs between them.
Jamshed, the young left-hand opener who was a part of Pakistan U-19's 2006 World Cup-winning team, has impressed selectors through a season where he ended the third-highest run-scorer. His spot was sealed after an authoritative hundred in a tour match against Zimbabwe in Karachi this week.
Samiullah and Hussain have also figured prominently this season; the former, who toured England with Pakistan in 2006, was the season's second-highest wicket-taker with 52 wickets, playing a prominent role in SNGPL's maiden Quaid-e-Azam trophy triumph and helping the Patrons XI beat Zimbabwe this week with a timely five-for.
Hussain, another left-arm option, was an influential figure in Habib Bank's run to the Quaid-e-Azam final. He not only picked up 35 wickets at under 20, but also scored over 500 runs, averaging over 35 with four fifties.
The rest of the squad contains few surprises and Shoaib Malik's inclusion suggests that the management is confident of him overcoming his ankle injury to play in the series. Pakistan have long maintained that the series would be used to try out new faces in various departments; with Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Mohammad Asif not fully fit and Mohammad Sami not considered, fast bowling slots have opened up. The search for a viable opening pair continues, while Kamran Akmal's poor form behind the stumps has forced the inclusion of an understudy. Abdul Razzaq's sidelining from international cricket has also allowed for some new allrounders to be tested.
It is expected that a clutch of other players who have impressed domestically will be called up to the squad for the final three games of the series. Those expected to be given a run include opener Khalid Latif and Sohail Khan, the strapping Karachi-based fast bowler from the NWFP, who finished a remarkable debut first-class season as its leading wicket-taker.
Shoaib Malik (capt), Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Shahid Afridi, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Nasir Jamshed, Sohail Tanvir, Samiullah Khan Niazi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Kamran Hussain, Yasir Arafat, Fawad Alam.