Pakistan ‘rest’ seniors including Babar Azam, Shadab Khan to lead Afghanistan series in UAE

This photo, taken on November 13, 2022, shows Pakistan's Shadab Khan playing a shot during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 final cricket match between England and Pakistan at The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Melbourne. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 13 March 2023

Pakistan ‘rest’ seniors including Babar Azam, Shadab Khan to lead Afghanistan series in UAE

  • Babar Azam, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan, Haris Rauf, Fakhar Zaman not included in Pakistan squad
  • PCB chief Najam Sethi says senior players “on board” with decision, no threat to Babar Azam’s captaincy in all formats

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has appointed all-rounder Shadab Khan as skipper for the three-match T20 series against Afghanistan, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) boss Najam Sethi announced on Monday, saying the board has decided to rest “senior players” Babar Azam, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Muhammad Rizwan, and others.

Pakistan will play a three-match T20I series against Afghanistan in Sharjah on March 24, 26, and 26, PCB Management Committee Chair Sethi announced last month. The decision was taken after Australia called off its Afghanistan tour due to bans imposed by the interim Afghan government on women.

Local media had widely reported that Azam, Pakistan’s all-format skipper, would be dropped from the squad while others reported Afridi would be named captain.

Sethi told reporters during a news conference the board has decided to include young and upcoming players in the squad for the Afghanistan series. He said the decision had been taken to groom youngsters, adding that it was to ensure they do not “fizzle out” in the future when they do not perform at the international stage.

Sethi said he had spoken to Pakistan’s top players to inform them that they would be rested for the upcoming series.

“I have spoken to Babar Azam, I have spoken to Rizwan, I have spoken to Shaheen, I have spoken to Fakhar. We are resting them,” Sethi told reporters. “All of them are happy, [there is] no problem. Secondly, there is no type of threat to our established captain, Babar Azam. He remains the captain of the Pakistan national squad,” he added.

Sethi said Azam would continue to remain Pakistan’s captain across all three formats, adding that he would be changed whenever he decides to let go of the captaincy in any single format of the game.

“I have also decided, because this is my decision and not the selection committee’s decision — I held consultations with them — that Shadab will be the captain of this tour,” he announced. “He is the vice-captain of the team like Babar Azam is the captain of the squad. It is his right as well,” Sethi added.

Sethi said he has spoken to Khan, adding that “everyone is on-board” and requested the media to support the PCB’s strategy to promote young talent.

Haroon Rashid, Chairman of the Men’s National Selection Committee, announced the names of the rest of the members of the squad.

Pakistan squad for Afghanistan series:

Shadab Khan (captain), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Wasim Jr.., Tayyab Tahir, Ihsanullah, Azam Khan, Shan Masood, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Haris, Saim Ayub, Zaman Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed


Haseebullah Khan, Usama Mir, Abrar Ahmed

90 UAE cricketers to feature in ILT20 Development Tournament

Updated 25 September 2023

90 UAE cricketers to feature in ILT20 Development Tournament

  • ILT20 Blitzers, ILT20 Braves, ILT20 Dynamos, ILT20 Marvels, ILT20 Pearls and ILT20 Thunderbolts to compete in the 18-match competition

DUBAI: UAE captain Muhammad Waseem will lead the ILT20 Marvels in the inaugural ILT20 Development Tournament that begins at the ICC Academy Grounds, Dubai from Saturday, Sept. 30.

A total of 90 players (15 per side) made it to the six squads via a player draft held earlier this week.

The tournament will provide an opportunity to UAE’s domestic players as well as those who have played internationals (ODIs and T20Is) to showcase their talent and impress the DP World ILT20 franchises for selection in the squads for Season 2.

Ali Abid will captain the ILT20 Blitzers, Muhammad Usman will skipper the ILT20 Braves, Karthik Meiyappan will lead ILT20 Dynamos while seasoned UAE batter Rohan Mustafa will be in charge of the ILT20 Thunderbolts.

Each team will play five matches in the group stage, with the top-four sides at the end of the group stage progressing to the semifinals. The final will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

The six squads were chosen by their respective head coaches and support staff.

The head coaches include Rizwan Arshad (Braves), Sandeep Dhuri (Blitzers), Jared Davids (Dynamos), Rejith Arjun (Marvels), Shahzada Saleem (Pearls) and Khurram Khan (Thunderbolts). Tournament Director of the ILT20 Development Tournament Andy Russell oversaw the selection process.

Six franchises of DP World ILT20 have retained 11 UAE players as part of their squads for Season 2. This means 13 spots are still up for grabs (franchises need to have at least four UAE players in their squads).

Out of the 11 retained players from Season 1, the following eight will participate in the ILT20 Development Tournament: Aayan Afzal Khan (Gulf Giants), Junaid Siddique (Sharjah Warriors), Matiullah (Abu Dhabi Knight Riders), Mohammad Waseem (MI Emirates), Muhammad Jawadullah (Sharjah Warriors), Rohan Mustafa (Desert Vipers), Sanchit Sharma (Gulf Giants) and Zahoor Khan (MI Emirates).

All participating players (other than the 11 retained) will be eligible for selection in DP World ILT20 Season 2. The 13 vacant spots for UAE players across the six franchises will be filled via a DP World ILT20 organized Player Draft that will take place after the ILT20 Development Tournament.

Chief Executive Officer DP World ILT20 David White: “We are delighted to launch the ILT20 Development Tournament. We have been very clear in our approach from the beginning and want to reiterate that the DP World ILT20 is all about developing the game in the UAE.

“The DP World ILT20 Season 1 provided a world-class platform to our players, besides our established stars, youngsters like Aayan Afzal Khan, Sanchit Sharma and Ali Naseer learned a great deal by rubbing shoulders with the best in the world and their progress since the last edition is a testament to the success of the league especially from a development point of view.

“I am sure that we will see some new stars emerge from the ILT20 Development Tournament this year and their performances will provide some fantastic selection options for our six DP World ILT20 franchises.”

Captains face range of challenges ahead of Cricket World Cup

Updated 21 September 2023

Captains face range of challenges ahead of Cricket World Cup

  • While tactics and strategy are vital ingredients for any skipper, so are leadership and a proper grasp of human relations

Sometimes a captain of a cricket team gets a decision wrong. It happened to Sri Lanka’s captain, Dasun Shanaka, in the Asia Cup Final last Sunday in Colombo. He won the toss and chose to bat under clear skies. Before play could start, rain arrived, causing a 40-minute delay.

By the time the innings opened, overcast skies created a different set of conditions to those envisaged at the toss. In 15.2 overs, India’s bowlers demolished the Sri Lankan team, which could only total 50 runs. India then raced to victory in only 6.1 overs without loss.

Expectant home supporters were left surprised and disappointed at an embarrassing performance, which was Sri Lanka’s lowest total in a home match in the ODI format. This came after the delirious scenes that greeted Sri Lanka’s victory over Pakistan the previous Thursday, one which secured a place in Sunday’s final.

Inevitably, criticism has been levelled at Shanaka. In hindsight, he should have chosen to bowl. India’s captain said that he would have chosen to bat, had he won the toss.

Irrespective of the Shanaka’s decision, it is his ODI form that has drawn the most attention. After scoring a century against India in January 2023, his subsequent 17 innings have generated only 150 runs at an average of 9.4. This fell to 5 in the Asia Cup. During his pre-final press conference, he said that his captaincy was more important than his batting. He may have a point.

Since July 2021, he has led the team in 39 ODIs, achieving a 61percent-win ratio. As captain in 48 T20Is since October 2019, his win ratio is 49 percent. While these ratios are some way short of the highest ones achieved of 70-80 percent, there has been an improvement in Sri Lanka’s results under Shanaka’s leadership. This has stabilized Sri Lanka’s fragile relationships between board, players and political forces. It even embraced victory in the 2022 Asia Cup, played in T20I format.

Another captain under pressure prior to the 2023 ICC men’s ODI World Cup is Pakistan’s Babar Azam. His place in the team is assured, given that he is regularly ranked in the top-three batters across all formats. However, by all accounts, he struggled to keep his feelings in check after his team’s defeat by Sri Lanka last week.

The match went down to the final over, from which eight runs were required. The over was entrusted to a debutant bowler, in the team because of injuries to two regular quick bowlers. It seemed as if he might be the hero, narrowing the target to six from the final two deliveries and two from the final one, Sri Lanka having only one wicket to fall, a player having been injured during the match. Amid the drama, Sri Lanka’s striker squeezed out two runs to secure a place in the final.

In the post-match press conference, Azam was gracious, remarking that Sri Lanka played better cricket and that Pakistan was not “up to the mark with its bowling and fielding.” Later, rumors emerged that he was less than gracious in the dressing room, voicing disappointment with the performance of certain senior players, one of whom took objection. Another intervened to calm the situation down. Given that the result denied Pakistan a tilt at India in the final, backlash against the result from supporters and observers would be anticipated, most of all by Azam.

Losing dressing rooms are not usually a happy place to be, particularly after semifinals. This defeat will have been especially difficult to digest and Azam’s reaction will have reflected disappointment at his own form, the loss of key players and a feeling that several players could have done more to help. In any case, such internal discussions should not be leaked and there have been subsequent denials of disharmony. In my experience, harmony within teams is difficult to achieve and, unsurprisingly, is most likely to occur when the team is winning. Even then, there are certain personalities that do not gel.

In this respect, it was revealing to listen to one of England’s most successful captains, Mike Brearley, speak this week at a talk to promote his latest book, “Turning Over the Pebbles.”

Brearley made 39 appearances for England between 1976 and 1981. He was captain for 31 matches, of which 18 were won and only four lost. Most famously, he was recalled as captain in 1981 midway through a series against Australia, after Ian Botham resigned the post.

In the third Test at Headingley, Leeds, England stared defeat in the face, five wickets down and 122 runs behind in its second innings. Encouraged by Brearley, Botham launched a ferocious counterattack culminating in Australia needing 129 runs to win. They were bowled out for 111.

This and other results have led Brearley to be labelled a “lucky” captain, something that he does not deny. However, there are many nuances and subtleties to him, someone whom an Australian player referred to as having a “degree in people.” It is an appropriate epithet.

He studied Classics at Cambridge, afterwards lecturing in philosophy. Along the way, he developed an interest in psychoanalysis, which he has practiced for 40 years. The book seeks to bring together these strands of his life, turning them over, like pebbles, to see what lies behind.

What is clear is that he relished being captain. Tactics and strategy are vital ingredients but without a proper grasp of human relations they are not enough. Empathy, truthfulness and courage are required in dealing with team members. Brearley was well versed in these attributes and was able to persuade seasoned professionals to change well-trodden paths. There are few admissions of mistakes, yet he questions if he was good enough as a player to justify his place in the team. Shanaka’s place is being questioned but he backs his leadership qualities. Azam’s playing abilities are not in question, but his leadership qualities are. One can only speculate what advice Brearley might offer the pair.

Siraj stars as India rout Sri Lanka for eighth Asia Cup crown

Updated 17 September 2023

Siraj stars as India rout Sri Lanka for eighth Asia Cup crown

  • Sri Lanka’s miserably low total in the 50-over contest left a nearly packed house disappointed after they witnessed just 116 minutes of play

COLOMBO: Pace bowler Mohammed Siraj returned figures of 6-21 to lead India’s rout of Sri Lanka by 10 wickets as they clinched their eighth Asia Cup title on Sunday.
Siraj got four wickets in one over to help skittle Sri Lanka out for 50, a total the Indian openers Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill surpassed in 6.1 overs for an impressive victory ahead of next month’s ODI World Cup at home.
Sri Lanka’s miserably low total in the 50-over contest left a nearly packed house disappointed after they witnessed just 116 minutes of play.
The hosts elected to bat first following a delayed start due to rain and pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah struck first with the wicket of Kusal Perera, caught behind for a duck in the first over.
Siraj soon took over as he made the ball swing and seam in overcast conditions to easily surpass his previous ODI best of 4-32.
He got Pathum Nissanka for two and then struck on successive balls to send back Sadeera Samarawickrama (0) and Charith Asalanka (0), but a hat-trick was averted.
Dhananjaya de Silva hit a boundary but Siraj had him caught behind with the next ball, much to the delight of the Indian fans.
Siraj got his fifth with the wicket of Sri Lankan captain Dasun Shanaka, equalling an ODI record for the fastest five-wicket haul from his first 16 balls of the match.
Kusal Mendis hit three boundaries before becoming Siraj’s sixth wicket, although Sri Lanka avoided the lowest-ever ODI total of 35 by Zimbabwe.
After Virat Kohli’s overthrow went for a boundary, and six more runs to the total, Sri Lanka pushed past their lowest ODI total of 43 scored against South Africa in 2012.
Hardik Pandya took three wickets to wrap up the innings in just 90 minutes.
Mendis’ 17 and an unbeaten 13 by Dushan Hemantha were the only double-digit scores in an innings that featured five ducks.
Shubman Gill, a centurion in the previous match, began with a boundary in the opening over on his way to an unbeaten 27 and fellow opener Ishan Kishan (23) soon joined the party.
The left-handed Ishan smashed fast bowler Matheesha Pathirana for two successive boundaries, and three more in a row from Gill gave India victory in the tournament’s shortest final.
Rohit Sharma’s India dropped just one match in the tournament after they lost an inconsequential Super Four contest against Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka, who won the previous edition of the Asia Cup played in the T20 format, came in as underdogs and snuck into the Super Fours with a dramatic win over Afghanistan but went down without a fight in their 11th final.

Saudi Arabia loses to Kuwait in Gulf Cricket T20I Championship opener

Updated 15 September 2023

Saudi Arabia loses to Kuwait in Gulf Cricket T20I Championship opener

  • Opting to bat first after winning the toss in the opening match, Saudi Arabia put in a total of 142 runs in 20 overs with the loss of 9 wickets
  • Faisal Khan was the highest scorer from the Saudi side, with 62 runs in 42 balls, hitting 9 fours and a six

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia lost to Kuwait by five wickets in the tournament opener of the Gulf Cricket T20I Championship 2023 at the West End International Cricket Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Friday.
Opting to bat first after winning the toss in the opening match, Saudi Arabia put in a total of 142 runs in 20 overs with the loss of 9 wickets.
Faisal Khan was the highest scorer from the Saudi side, with 62 runs in 42 balls, hitting 9 fours and a six. His opening partner, Abdul Waheed, scored just 3 runs in as many balls.
The other top scorers were Saad Khan (23), Zainul Abiding (19), and Sarfraz Butt (13). Captain Hisham Sheikh scored 9 runs in 17 balls.
Kuwaiti bowlers Mohammed Aslam and Adnan Idrees took 2 wickets each, helping their side to restrict Saudi Arabia to 142.
Chasing a modest total, the Kuwaiti team started cautiously with an opening partnership of 51 runs when Adnan Idrees was caught on 31.
His opening partner, Ravija Sandaruwan, played a brilliant inning of 58 runs on 41 balls, hitting 3 fours and as many sixes.
Meet Bhavsar made a good contribution of 31 runs on 28 balls, bringing the team closer to victory with Sandaruwan.
Though some wickets fell in quick succession by disciplined bowling in the middle by the Saudi side, Kuwait scored the winning run on the third ball of the 19th over, with 5 wickets and 9 balls remaining.
Ishtiaq Ahmad, Zainul Abidin and Hisham Sheikh took a wicket each, while two Kuwaiti players were run out.
Six Gulf countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar — feature in the maiden Gulf Cricket T20I Championship.
“The wait is over. The Saudi national team is all set for the big day, beginning their run in the Gulf Cricket Tournament against the Kuwait national team this evening,” the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation said before the match on Friday.
“We wish all the best to our national team,” the federation told Arab News.
“Our second match in the Gulf Cricket T20I Championship 2023 will be on Sept. 17 against the UAE, (the) third match is scheduled to be held on Sept. 18 against Bahrain, (the) fourth match on Sept. 20 against Oman, and the fifth and last match (is) on Sept. 21 against Qatar, which is hosting the first T20I Gulf Cricket Championship in Doha from Sept. 15-23.”
The Saudi lineup includes Usman Najeeb, Zainul Abidin, Atifur Rehman, Mohammed Hisham Sheikh, Ishtiaq Ahmad, Abdul Waheed, Zeeshan Sarfraz Butt, Faisal Khan, Saad Khan, Kashif Abbas, Ahmed Abdul Waheed, Mohammed Khalander Mustafa, Mohsin Shabbir and Abdul Manan Ali.
Speaking to the media following a preparatory meeting late last month, Qatar Cricket Association CEO Khaled Al-Suwaidi has said that arrangements have been completed to host the tournament.
“This cricket tournament will be a milestone in the Gulf region and is expected to achieve great development of this sport in the region,” he said.
The hosting of the Gulf Cricket T20I Championship will rotate annually between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, under the auspices of the International Cricket Council and in accordance with rules set by the ICC for the game.

How Saudi national cricket team can benefit from India and Pakistan expertise

Updated 15 September 2023

How Saudi national cricket team can benefit from India and Pakistan expertise

  • Saudi Arabia’s participation in the Gulf Cricket Championship can provide a platform to showcase the team’s progress and potential

Cricket, often hailed as a unifying force on the Indian subcontinent, has now transcended borders and found a new home in Saudi Arabia.

With a growing expatriate population from both India and Pakistan, the Saudi Arabian cricket team stands at a unique crossroads of opportunity.

By leveraging the diverse cricketing expertise of Indian and Pakistani expatriates, Saudi Arabia has the potential to forge a formidable team that can compete on the international stage.

Pakistan’s rich cricketing heritage is marked by exceptional bowling talent. The nation has produced world-class fast bowlers known for their raw pace, swing, and unrelenting aggression.

From Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis to Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Amir, Pakistan’s bowlers have left an indelible mark on the sport. By incorporating Pakistani expatriates into the Saudi Arabian cricket team, the bowling department can benefit immensely.

India, on the other hand, has a rich tradition of producing world-class batsmen, from the legendary Sachin Tendulkar to the modern-day maestro Virat Kohli. The artistry, technique and ability to construct innings have been ingrained in the Indian cricketing DNA. By tapping into the expertise of Indian expatriates, Saudi Arabia can infuse its batting lineup with finesse and resilience.

Prince Saud Mishal Al-Saud, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, has a keen understanding of the value that Pakistani and Indian cricket brings to the table. Prince Saud has engaged with renowned ex-cricketers, team owners, and diplomats from both Pakistan and India, to foster an environment of collaboration and knowledge-sharing for the growth of Saudi cricket

Prince Saud’s efforts have included meetings with esteemed ex-cricketers including Irfan Pathan and Akram, and team owners Nadeem Omar of the Quetta Gladiators and Manoj Badale of the Rajasthan Royals.

In March 2023, Akram told Arab News he was “optimistic about cricket growth in Saudi Arabia” and “eager to see the sport’s talent from the Kingdom.” Akram was in the Saudi capital for the first time in February where he met Prince Saud to discuss the future of the sport in the Kingdom.

The ongoing Asia Cup further underscores the significance of embracing the collective strength of Indian and Pakistani expatriates in the Saudi Arabian cricket team. The tournament, which brings together cricketing powerhouses from the Asian continent, serves as a catalyst for growth, exposure and recognition.

Saudi Arabia’s participation in the Gulf Cricket Championship starting on Sept. 15 can provide a platform to showcase the team’s progress and potential. By amalgamating the expertise of Indian and Pakistani expatriates, Saudi Arabia can create a balanced team capable of competing against formidable opponents.