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PAK vs NZ: Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim recalled to Pakistan squad for New Zealand T20I series

Having reversed their decisions of retiring from international cricket, fast bowler Mohammad Amir and left-arm spinner Imad Wasim were recalled to the 17-member Pakistan squad for the five-match T20I series against New Zealand, starting April 18.

The 10-day series will feature three games in Rawalpindi and two games in Lahore.

Amir, who was convicted for spot-fixing charges and also briefly did jail time in England, last played international cricket in 2020 before calling it quits to ply his trade in T20 leagues. He retired from international cricket due to his differences with erstwhile coaches Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis.

Imad, a spin all-rounder, had retired from international cricket in November 2023 but took back his retirement after persuasion from the board and selectors after he had a productive Pakistan Super League (PSL), in which his team won the title.

“I trust that both players will continue their upward trajectory, sparing no effort in proving themselves worthy of the selectors’ and captain’s trust and confidence,” selector Mohammad Yousuf said.

The selection committee comprising Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Asad Shafiq, Wahab Riaz and Bilal Afzal told media that those who have performed consistently have been rewarded.

They also called up uncapped batters Usman Khan, Irfan Khan Niazi and spinner Abrar Ahmed.

Wahab defended Amir’s selection, who was roundly criticised recently by former Test captain and commentator, Ramiz Raja, for his role in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal.

Ramiz had said if he had been in charge and even if his son had done spot-fixing, he would never have allowed him back into the team.

“I think Ramiz Raja’s comments were very negative and you can’t say such things about an individual. Even our religion allows a second chance to even someone who has been convicted of a crime,” Wahab said.

Wahab also said Amir was recalled from retirement as he had been bowling very well in leagues, and secondly, the selectors wanted to manage the workload of all pace bowlers.

“The decision to include Imad and Amir was a straightforward one, given their availability for selection and considering Haris Rauf’s injury and Mohammad Nawaz’s current form. Both Amir and Imad possess undeniable match-winning capabilities, and we trust they will consistently deliver strong performances to bolster the team’s objectives,” Wahab added.

Yousuf said that in a recent meeting with all the players, the selectors had clearly communicated their selection policy and strategy to all elite players, and there is complete alignment within the group.

Wahab also said that they is no internal politics in the Pakistan camp.

The PCB selection committee has no chairman and under a new policy, the captain, Babar Azam in this case, and the head coach are also on the committee, along with data analyst Afzal.

Interestingly, Afzal was a former caretaker minister for planning and co-ordination in the cabinet of former caretaker CM of Punjab, Mohsin Naqvi, who now heads the PCB.

There is no known cricket background of the former minister but he was appointed on the selection committee last month.

The team selection was done by majority voting for the first time in Pakistan’s cricket history. In the past, the chief selector had the final say.

The New Zealand squad coming for the series is without 10 of its first-choice selections, including Kane Williamson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Mitchell Santner, Glenn Phillips, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Matt Henry, Will Young and Henry Nichols, who are either busy in the Indian Premier League (IPL) or English county cricket or have taken a break.

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