by K Shahid
On Sunday, Pakistan will have much cause for celebration when the T20 series is wrapped up in Lahore. And if the ODI series is anything to go by, Pakistan should have cause to rejoice both on and off the field.
After the first two T20s being in Abu Dhabi, on Thursday and Friday, the final T20 would be played in Lahore on Sunday. Lahore, of course, was the site where the Sri Lankan team’s bus was attacked by gunmen in March 2009, which resulted in cricket’s almost decade long exile from Pakistan.
And even though Zimbabwe have toured earlier, with the PSL final and the Independence Cup against World XI also being hosted by Pakistan, it is Sri Lanka’s return to the site where seven of their squad and support staff were injured eight-and-a-half years ago, that would truly announce the recommencement of international cricket.
Granted it’s 24-hour fly-in fly-out arrangement for a solitary match, but it would pave the way for a three match series against West Indies next month, and then expansion of PSL 3 into Karachi in February next year.
Understandably though, the squad Sri Lanka have announced is missing quite a few key players.
Sri Lanka squad:
Thisara Perera (captain), Dilshan Munaweera, Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Ashan Priyanjan, Mahela Udawatte, Dasun Shanaka, Sachith Pathirana, Vikum Sanjaya, Lahiru Gamage, Seekkuge Prasanna, Vishwa Fernando, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Chathuranga de Silva, Minod Bhanuka
All-rounder Thisara Perera will lead the 16-man squad for the three-match T20 series. Perera was in Lahore last month along with the World XI that lost the Independence Cup 2-1 to Pakistan.
Sri Lankan limited overs captain Upul Tharanga, fast bowler Lasith Malinga, pacer Suranga Lakmal, and batsmen Niroshan Dickwella and Chamara Kapugedara have all excused themselves from touring Pakistan, which means that they won’t be playing any of the T20s – not even the ones in the UAE.
Let’s not forget that both Lakmal and Kapugedara were part of the Sri Lanka squad that was attacked in Lahore.
So yes, the omissions are understandable, but the statement a Sri Lankan international side makes by touring Pakistan cannot be overemphasised.
As far as the Pakistani squad is concerned, Mohammed Amir returns after a shin injury that kept him out of the ODI side. In his absence Rumman Raees and Usman Khan Shinwari both impressed and are both in the T20 squad.
Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Amir Yamin, Mohammad Amir, Rumman Raees, Usman Shinwari, Umar Amin
Mohammed Hafeez also makes a comeback to the squad, but his long-term fate might hinge on his bowling action test. It is safe to say that a Hafeez that doesn’t ball is not as indispensable as the one that does, and so should he be banned it might be the last time we see him in the squad for a while.
All-rounder Amir Yamin has been recalled following a decent showing in the domestic circuit and would be hoping to present his case to address a growing concern that the lack of firepower in the lower-order.
While Ahmed Shehzad might be expected to slot into the starting 11, with Imam-ul-Haq not in the T20 squad, and Shehzad impressing in the final T20 against the World XI in the Independence Cup, Pakistan’s opening remains a cause for concern.
What of course hasn’t helped is Fakhar Zaman failing to score a single fifty in the five ODIs against Sri Lanka after having struggled in the Independence Cup as well.
However, Pakistan have all the positives to take from their sixth ever ODI clean sweep in a five-match series against Sri Lanka.
And even though the match in Lahore would be colossal for other reasons, Pakistan have a limited-overs momentum to keep up with, as they look towards bigger challenges away to New Zealand in January – and perhaps even South Africa before that.