Pakistan have named offspinner Saeed Ajmal in their squad for the Asia Cup, which starts on June 24, the only surprise inclusion in a 15-man squad.
Ajmal, 30, made a mark in the 2007-08 first-class season, taking 38 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 29. "Ajmal has impressed with his wicket-taking ability and can also bowl the one which goes out like former spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and we hope he does well in this tournament," chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed said.
Pakistan didn't have a specialist spinner in their squad for the one-week long Kitply Cup, which they won after beating India in the final. Shahid Afridi and Fawad Alam were used by captain Shoaib Malik, who himself didn't bowl due to a sore shoulder. However, he will have more options for the Asia Cup with Ajmal and legspinning allrounder Mansoor Amjad in the team.
"We needed a specialist offspinner in the side. After 20 overs, Afridi does a fantastic job at one end, but we need something at the other end as well," Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's captain, said. Malik also put to rest speculation over a wrist injury for Afridi, stating he was 100% fit.
Kamran Akmal had been left out of Pakistan's list of 20 probables for the tournament, with the selectors opting to hand the wicketkeeping gloves to Sarfraz Ahmed. Akmal had been Pakistan's regular wicketkeeper since November 2004, when he took over from Moin Khan, and played virtually non-stop in all three formats. However, his inconsistency behind the stumps since the 2006 tour to England finally cost him his place in the side.
Other players to be dropped from the squad which played the Kitply Cup are batsmen Bazid Khan and Naumanullah, and fast bowler Sohail Khan, who was on the verge of selection but is suffering from malaria.
Pakistan play their opening game of the tournament on June 24, against Hong Kong in Karachi. The hosts are drawn alongside India in Group B, with the top two sides progressing to the second stage.
Shoaib Malik (capt), Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Anjum, Mohammad Yousuf, Nasir Jamshed, Salman Butt, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mansoor Amjad, Saeed Ajmal