Head Coach Misbah-ul-Haq on Wednesday announced the 35-player squad for Pakistan’s tour to New Zealand.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Misbah said that the upcoming series is “crucial” for the team as it will help Pakistan improve its T20I rankings and gain valuable points in the ICC World Test Championship.

“Against this background and taking into consideration recent player performances, we have selected the best available players,” said Misbah.

The head coach stated that the tour schedule has been designed in such a way that the players “play tough intra-squad matches”.

“While the national side will be involved in one format, Shaheens will be in action in the other format. This means all the players will be busy and playing competitive cricket,” he said.

The former captain added that the “COVID-19 times” have provided a “unique opportunity” to the best performers of the domestic circuit to represent the national and Shaheens squads against [high] quality opposition, like New Zealand.

He added that the tour will provide “valuable experience and exposure” to the players to improve their skills and strengthen their “claims for international call-ups”.

“I want to congratulate uncapped Amad Butt, Danish Aziz, Imran Butt, and Rohail Nazir who have impressed the selectors with their form, technique, temperament and ability to secure places in the 35-player pool,” said Misbah.

He also clarified that the four players have been “selected specifically” for Shaheens as part of PCB’s strategy to build the team’s “bench strength”.

This is the last time that Head Coach Misbah-ul-Haq has announced the squad as a chief selector. The former captain had resigned from the post last month.

The head coach-cum-chief selector also spoke about the omissions of Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, and Mohammad Amir.

Misbah explained that Asad Shafiq has been dropped due to “lack of form” as he had only scored 510 runs in his last 15 innings.

“Asad is an experienced batsman and I am sure he will utilise this time to work harder on his game in the domestic first-class matches so that he, like Sarfaraz Ahmed, can reclaim his form and be back in contention for the upcoming Tests against South Africa and Zimbabwe,” said Misbah.

On Malik and Amir, Misbah said that they have been excluded as the PCB has decided to “invest, develop and focus on the promising and emerging players who are likely to be available to Pakistan for all formats”.

Rizwan appointed Babar’s deputy
PCB announced that it has appointed Mohammad Rizwan as the vice-captain for the Test team. A day earlier, PCB had confirmed that Babar Azam will take over the Test captaincy from Azhar Ali. He was already named as the white ball captain of the cricket team.

Meanwhile, wicketkeeper Rohail Nazir and Haider Ali have been appointed as captain and vice-captain of the Pakistan Shaheens, respectively.

The PCB said that the players, along with 20-member players support personnel, will depart for Lincoln on November 23 where they will spend the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

During the series, players not involved in international matches against New Zealand will be available for selection for the Shaheens’ matches against New Zealand A.

The PCB said that that Test players not involved in the T20Is against New Zealand will be available for selection for Shaheens.

“Likewise, when the national side is involved in the ICC World Test Championship matches against New Zealand, national men’s team players not part of those matches will be available for selection for the Shaheens, who are expected to be involved in 20-over games against New Zealand A during those days,” said the PCB.

The PCB also said that the chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq before finalising the squad had consulted the six cricket association head coaches, Shaheens head coach Ijaz Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq, head of international player development.

Following are the players shortlisted for the tour:

Abid Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, and Zeeshan Malik.

Middle-order batsmen
Babar Azam, Azhar Ali, Danish Aziz, Fawad Alam, Haider Ali, Haris Sohail, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imran Butt, Khushdil Shah, and Mohammad Hafeez.

Mohammad Rizwan, Rohail Nazir, and Sarfaraz Ahmed.

Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir, Yasir Shah, and Zafar Gohar.

Fast bowlers
Amad Butt, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Musa, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohail Khan, and Wahab Riaz.

Pakistan v New Zealand:
Dec 18 — First T20I, Eden Park, Auckland
Dec 20 — Second T20I, Seddon Park, Hamilton
Dec 22 — Third T20I, McLean Park, Napier
Dec 26-30 — First Test, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
January 3-7 — Second Test, Hagley Oval, Christchurch

Schedule of Shaheens vs New Zealand A will be announced as soon as it is confirmed by the NZC.

First female director of PCB

Alia Zafar has been named as one of the independent directors on the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), becoming the first female to have been appointed to the post in the cricket-crazy South Asian nation.

Zafar, a human resources executive, was included among four new PCB directors. The others are finance executive Javed Kurieshi, economist Asim Wajid Jawad, and corporate executive Arif Saeed.

Zafar, who has worked in senior positions in the corporate sector, was appointed for a two-year term. She has also had a stint with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The PCB’s new constitution, which came into effect last year, makes it mandatory to include at least one woman among four independent directors on its board of governors.

“I welcome the newly-appointed independent members, especially Ms Alia Zafar, the first female independent member, which is a giant step forward in enhancing the PCB’s governance structure,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said on Tuesday.

“The four new members bring with them a wealth of diverse knowledge that will only improve the professional outlook and working of the PCB.”

The revamped structure of the PCB has resulted in six provincial teams – Balochistan, Central Punjab, Southern Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Northern – competing in premier first-class cricket tournaments.

For more than 50 years, banks fielded teams in first-class tournaments alongside city-based teams in Pakistan