Haider Ali and Abdullah Shafique, two of the brightest young stars to have come out of Pakistan’s domestic cricket, have been left out of the 15-man squad announced for the first ODI against the touring Zimbabwe on Friday.
With the minnows not expected to challenge the hosts even at full strength, the decision to keep two of the country’s most gifted rookies out of contention for the first 50-over engagement is bound to raise eyebrows and set tongues wagging on whether Pakistan are passing up on a grand opportunity to try out their younger lot against a lightweight opponent and give them valuable international exposure ahead of tougher assignments.
Though the schedules have not been firmed up yet, there is talk of Pakistan hosting South Africa and England in January-February next year.
Picked for the recent limited overs series in England, Haider Ali unleashed himself into global cricketing consciousness with a swashbuckling half-century in his debut T20 international.
That innings gave more voice to former cricketers and pundits who had been making a strong case for Haider Ali’s inclusion in Test match cricket. All of 20, Haider Ali has already racked up 652 runs in 8 First Class matches, with three fifties and two centuries. He also holds an impressive List A record, scoring 218 runs in 5 innings at an average of 43.60.
Howevers, it’s his domestic T20 record that has got many chanting his name and raising a chorus for a long run in international cricket, across formats. In 23 domestic T20 innings, Haider Ali has totalled 649 runs at a strike rate of 157.14. A thing that stood out about his debut T20I fifty was that he didn’t care much reputation in the rival bowling line-up and threw the proverbial kitchen-sink at balls that were there to be hit. He also showed his ability to clear the ropes with ease.
Marked as one with bright international prospects, Abdullah Shafique started his domestic career with a bang, smashing a century in his debut First Class innings. In 10 domestic T20 innings, Shafique has piled up 358 runs at a healthy strike rate of 133.08.
While the exclusion of Haider Ali and Abdullah Shafique isn’t consistent with limited overs skipper Babar Azam’s pre-series talk of testing the bench strength, it does send out a negative and dispiriting message to untapped domestic talents who have set sights on winning the national cap.
Featured Image: Twitter/Haider Ali