Pakistan have had a troublesome start to their New Zealand tour with as many as six members of the 54-member camp testing positive for Covid-19 since arriving in the country last month. As a result, the entire squad and support staff was in managed isolation in Christchurch and wasn’t given any exemption to train in groups. Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq believes the lack of training and the unusual lead-up to the series will have affected the players, both “mentally and physically”.
“I want to compliment my players and the management team for their patience, sacrifices and the hardships they have endured to ensure they not only lead the safe resumption of international cricket during the Covid-19 pandemic since the series in England but also try to give their best every time they step on the field,” Misbah said in a PCB release.
“Top professional athletes require a certain environment to prepare so that they can perform at the minimum expected levels every time they represent their countries. While we completely respect and understand the New Zealand Government Laws, which have been put in place for the health and safety of their public, there is no denying the fact that the implementation of certain regulations has affected our athletes, both mentally and physically prior to an international series.
“Nonetheless, when we will leave the isolation facility in the next day or two, we will try to put all this behind us and focus on the challenge of facing New Zealand in both the formats.”
The first leg of the tour will comprise three T20Is starting on December 18 in Auckland. Pakistan have brought allrounder Hussain Talat and wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed back for that series, They replace Zafar Gohar and Rohail Nazir who were part of the T20I squad against Zimbabwe.
Ahmed had been left out of the Zimbabwe series to give youngsters a chance and so that he could instead play first-class cricket to “retain his fitness” and “rediscover” his form. He played three games in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for Sindh and scored an unbeaten century against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Overall, he scored 177 runs from six innings with an average of just over 35.
Talat last played international cricket in February 2019 on a tour of South Africa. He recently scored a career-best double-century and a century in five innings in the Quiad-e-Azam Trophy. Before that, he also racked up 319 runs for Southern Punjab in the National T20 Cup in October at a strike rate of nearly 152 with three half-centuries.
After the T20Is, Imad Wasim will depart for Australia on December 23 to play in the Big Bash League, while Mohammad Hafeez will leave for Pakistan on December 24.
Pakistan also announced a 16-man Shaheens squad for the four-day game against New Zealand A starting December 17 in Whangarei. Both squads will depart for Queenstown on December 8 after completing the 14-day isolation in Christchurch. They will stay in separate hotels in Queenstown and will train at different times according to their match requirements, a PCB release said. The Shaheens squad will travel to Whangarei on December 14 whereas the T20I players will head to Auckland on 15 December.
Both Gohar and Nazir, who didn’t get a game against Zimbabwe, were named in the Shaheens squad which will be captained by 19-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Nazir.
The Pakistan Test players will travel with the Shaheens squad to prepare for the two Tests starting December 26. The Shaheens players will also play intra-squad practice matches in Queenstown before their four-day game on December 17.
Shaheens squad: Rohail Nazir (capt), Abid Ali, Amad Butt, Azhar Ali, Danish Aziz, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah, Zafar Gohar and Zeeshan Malik.