KARACHI: Seasoned batsman Mohammad Hafeez found himself for selection in the 20-man squad named on Sunday for the Twenty20 International series against South Africa after failing to comply by a Feb 3 deadline set aside by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the players to enter a team’s bio-secure bubble in Lahore.
Hafeez — who is currently participating in the Abu Dhabi T10 League for Maratha Arabians and is also not a central-contract player with the PCB — had sought permission to join the squad on Feb 5 but the PCB refused to accept the 40-year-old’s request and the ensuing deadlock forced chief selector Mohammad Wasim to exclude him for the entire South Africa series.
However according to reliable sources, Hafeez had intimated the PCB in writing in the middle of December of his unavailability because the South Africa series overlapped with T20 Abu Dhabi League, which runs from Jan 28 to Feb 6 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Wasim made it absolute clear while announcing the squad that form was not the issue with Hafeez, who had been world’s leading run-getter in the T20 internationals, scoring 415 runs from 10 matches, while averaging a phenomenal 83 and maintaining strike rate of 152.57. Overall, he has made 2,323 runs with 14 half—centuries and career strike rate of 121.30 in 99 internationals.
“It is a bizarre situation that we are facing. The scenario doesn’t allow any provision to the players who are part of the [T20] squad have to join the [bio-secure] bubble on Feb 3, and they anyone of them cannot do so then he’s automatic considered unavailable for selection,” Wasim said. “As regards Hafeez’s omission there was no question whatsoever over his performance [which was fantastic in 2020] but unfortunately he is not available [for the South Africa T20 series].”
But while Hafeez has been denied the chance to make his 100th Twenty20 International, the selectors have recalled almost forgotten white-ball batsman Asif Ali, who is also plying his trade for the Qalandars in the T10 league but has committed to the PCB that he’ll return before the Feb 3 deadline. Asif last appeared in a T20 International against Australia at Canberra in November 2019.
However, there was no place for Fakhar Zaman — who was ruled of the New Zealand T20 series due to illness on the eve of Pakistan’s departure — and veteran fast bowler Wahab Riaz. Also missing from the upcoming series is Shadab Khan, who deputized for the injured Babar Azam as captain against New Zealand, as he is still nursing a leg injury, while his fellow all-rounder Imad Wasim made himself unavailable because of family commitments.
Fakhar paid the price for his indifferent batting form, having mustered just 192 runs and averaging 11.29 in last 17 Twenty20 Internationals. Wahab has grabbed just six wickets in his last eight T20s.
The selectors recalled paceman Hasan Ali and bowling all-rounder Aamir Yamin. Hasan, who played his first Test in two years at Karachi last week hasn’t been part of the Pakistan T20 side since May 2019, has just two T20 caps under his belt with the last being at Mount Maunganui three years ago.
Meanwhile, uncapped quartet of bowling all-rounders Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt along promising left-handed batsman Danish Aziz and leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood have all been included in the squad.
South Africa have already named a second-string squad for the T20 fixtures — scheduled to be played at the Gaddafi Stadium on Feb 11, 13 and 14 — under the captaincy of Heinrich Klaasen in the absence of several first-choice players — including Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada — who will be heading home straight after the second Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi to enter bubble ahead of their home Test series against Australia.
Members of the Pakistan Test squad who will be in action during the T20 series as well would join the bubble after the Feb 4-8 second Test concludes in Rawalpindi, while the South Africa T20 team is arriving in Lahore on Feb 3.
Squad: Babar Azam (captain), Aamir Yamin, Amad Butt, Asif Ali, Danish Aziz, Faheem Ashraf, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Qadir, Zafar Gohar, Zahid Mahmood.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2021