LAHORE– Making bold changes in the squads for the T20I and Tests against Australia, the Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to step into a new direction with the inclusion of youngsters.
Nineteen-year-old fast bowler Musa Khan has been included in both squads, while 16-year-old pace sensation, Naseem Shah has found a spot in the squad for the two-match Test series.
Musa and Naseem, like Mohammad Hasnain and Shaheen Shah Afridi, are the products of the National Cricket Academy, where they were trained, fine-tuned and prepared for international assignments.
Besides the two pacers, leg-spinner Usman Qadir and left-handed batsman Khushdil Shah have been included in the T20I squads.
Musa, who has sealed berths in both Test and T20I squads made a big breakthrough in last year’s ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup where he took three wickets in two matches and impressed every one with his pace and control. In seven first-class games to date, Musa has taken 17 wickets.
In the ongoing 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the right-armer has collected five wickets in four matches, in his eight T20 matches so far, Musa has collected 12 wickets including a four-wicket haul in the ongoing National T20 tournament, taking place at the Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad.
Musa also represented Islamabad United in the 2019 edition of the Pakistan Super League where he featured in seven games for the two-time champions.
According to Musa, he wants to replicate the performance of Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.
“My strength is bowling fast, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar are my fast bowling idols and I want to replicate their performances and instil fear in the batsmen like they did.”
He added, “ “I am really happy with my selection for the Australia tour, I am not thinking about bowling to the likes of David Warner or Steve Smith, rather I want to make an impression with my pace and penetration.”
Musa will have teenager Naseem for company in Australia during the Tests, the right-armer Naseem has donned the national colours in age-group cricket at the U16, U19 and Emerging levels, while his sharp bouncers made batsmen duck for cover at the domestic level also.
Naseem, first made an impression in the Pepsi Stars U16 One-Day tournament, where he took four wickets in his first match. The youngster hasn’t looked back since and has made his presence felt at all levels.
He took three wickets in two T20 matches against Australia U16; he also prospered in the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup, taking six wickets in three matches.
In five first-class appearances, Naseem has taken 17 wickets; his best bowling figures in an innings are six for 59. In the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy tournament, the youngster has collected nine wickets in three appearances.
“Inclusion in the national team is the realisation of a dream; all professional cricketers aspire the same and work hard day-in-day-out. Bowling coach Waqar Younis has asked me to bowl on my strengths and that is exactly what I will aim to do in Australia,” Naseem said.
The speedstar also aims to make an impression with his speed and swing if given a chance in the Tests against Australia.
“I have always been inspired and encouraged by watching videos of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar, “ Naseem said. “The conditions in Australia help fast-bowlers, my aim is to make maximum use of the conditions and give a tough time to the home side, playing on hard and bouncy pitches will be a great experience and a learning curve for me.”
The national selectors have also included legendary leg-spinner late Abdul Qadir’s son Usman Qadir in the T20I squad. The 26-year-old has played for Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash T20 League in Australia.
In the ongoing National T20 tournament, Usman has impressed with his miserly economy rate and wicket-taking abilities. He has snapped-up four wickets so far while his economy rate is less than seven runs per over.
Speaking about `his inclusion in the national squad, Usman said googly was his father’s gift and that he was the custodian of the gift.
“I am really happy at my inclusion in the national team. I have good experience of Australian pitches and conditions, I would try my best to live-up to the expectations of the head coach and selectors,” he said.
Usman added, “My father re-invented the googly and I feel that I am its custodian, I learned a lot from him and now is the time to deliver, when I left for Australia my father asked me to give it my all to don Pakistan colours and I am proud that I have made it to the national squad.
“Leg-spinner, googly and flipper are my main weapons, I am confident that I can trouble the batsmen on Australian pitches with these three deliveries,”
Bannu-born, 24-year-old left-handed batsman Khushdil has scored 93 runs at a strike-rate of more than 160 in the ongoing National T20 in Faisalabad. Khushdil has scored 630 runs in 33 T20 matches with the aid of five half-centuries, his highest score is 65.
Known for his six-hitting prowess, in 50-over cricket, Khushdil has hit 82 sixes in only 54 appearances.
“I am thrilled at my inclusion in the national T20I squad. I want to replicate my domestic cricket performances at the international level. My style of batting has always been aggressive; I will enter the international arena with the same mindset,” Khushdil said.
“In domestic cricket I have played alongside Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed having them around in Australia will be a great help,”.