Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah named in Pakistan's Men's T20 World Cup squad
The same squad will clash with New Zealand and England in the upcoming T20Is ahead of their tournament opener against India on 24 October.
Pakistan will first play five T20Is against New Zealand in Lahore 25 September and October 3 before hosting England for two T20I on 13 and 14 October at Rawalpindi.
Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah were among the surprise inclusions in the squad for the World Cup, having last played a T20I for Pakistan earlier this year against Zimbabwe and South Africa respectively. They did not find a place in the squad for the tours of England and West Indies.
Commenting on their inclusion, Chief Selector Muhammad Wasim said, "Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah may not have impressive numbers against their names but hardly anyone can doubt their tremendous talent and prowess."
"They are the best in the available pool of middle-order batsmen and we remain confident that they will provide us solutions to our middle-order difficulties through solid performances."
Pakistan chose youth over experience for the backup wicketkeeper spot with the inclusion of Azam Khan over Sarfaraz Ahmed. Khan has featured in only three T20Is in his career and has aggregated only six runs in two innings but his exploits in domestic T20 competitions, where he averages 22.83 at a strike rate of 149.92, has helped him seal a berth in the World Cup squad.
"Azam Khan is an aggressive and attacking batter who also keeps wickets, a combination that has earned him the selectors’ nod ahead of Sarfaraz Ahmed," said Muhammad Wasim.
Fakhar Zaman, Shahnawaz Dahani and Usman Qadir did not find a place in the squad but will be part of the travelling contingent as the reserve players.
"Our impressive record in the United Arab Emirates, clubbed with the talent we have in our ranks and the well-planned preparations gives me significant confidence that we will perform well in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021. All the players now need to do is not to get overawed by the occasion, continue to keep faith in their abilities and try to give something extra each time they step onto the field," he added.
Lead by captain Babar Azam, Pakistan will kickstart their ICC Men's T20 World Cup campaign against India in Dubai on 24 October. They will then face New Zealand in Sharjah on 26 October before returning to Dubai to take on Afghanistan. Their last two matches in the Super 12 stages will see them face runners-up of Group A and table-toppers of Group B from Round 1 in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah respectively.
Squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Azam Khan, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim , Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood.