When Mohammad Hafeez replaced Misbah as T20 captain ahead of the series against Sri Lanka, there were mixed reactions. Some supported the move, while others criticized it. However, what was unanimously criticized at that time was the overhaul of the T20 squad that was selected.
Khalid Latif, Shakeel Ansar, Ahmed Shehzad, Haris Sohail, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Sami, and Yasir Arafat made their way into the squad and Pakistan fielded a new look T20 team.
The results were not as desired with the series ending 1-1 and Pakistan’s batting looking extremely thin with neither Misbah nor Younis Khan in the middle.
The T20 squad has once again been revamped. However the same set of selectors who tried young and fresh players in the series against Sri Lanka have now decided to go back in time and recall the old war horses - Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir, and Kamran Akmal. All of whom have had reasonable success playing in T20 leagues around the world.
There is no longer any space for the younger brigade that was chosen for the Sri Lanka series. No Hammad Azam, no Ahmed Shehzad, no Haris Sohail.
T20 skipper Hafeez has said that this is all part of a short term goal to win the World T20, while the development of the mentioned younger players is more of a longer term strategy. I hope that is actually a plan that the PCB and team management have, and not just words used to defend the selection of Nazir and Razzaq.
The good thing about the squad that takes on Australia in the three match T20 series starting tonight is that the same squad will also be taking on the world in the World T20 later this month.
No player will feel insecure and no player will feel the pressure to perform to book a place in the World T20 squad. Nor will anyone try and cook up some sort of dressing room power play to try and take over the captaincy for the World T20.
That can only be good. When the Pakistan T20 squad was announced over a month ago, I mentioned how it was a master stroke from Zaka Ashraf.
And now it is time to transform that master stroke into results.
Surely both Pakistan and Australia will be using this 3 match series to figure out their best XI for the World T20, and to also crystallize their T20 plans for the big tournament that is less than a fortnight away.
This series will also be good practice to figure each other out considering the two teams are placed in the same Super 8 Group in the World T20. Provided they both qualify of course.
Without being patriotic or having any sort of emotional bias, I do think that Pakistan have the edge over Australia in T20s. Australia have struggled more than other teams in the format, while Pakistan have typically been a strong T20 outfit.
Australia has not won a T20 series for 30 months now. The last time they did was back in February 2010 against the West Indies. Since then they have lost 4 series and drawn 5.
For Pakistan, the return of players like Imran Nazir, Abdul Razzaq, and Kamran Akmal adds plenty of much needed firepower to Pakistan’s batting line up. Then there is the Saeed Ajmal factor as well, which weighs heavily on the Australians. They have looked clueless against him thus far, and I doubt they will play him any better than they did in the ODIs.
With the return of Watson and White, the presence of Warner, the Hussey brothers, and Wade, and the emergence of Maxwell, Australia T20 unit looks super on paper. I would put my money on them against most teams with that batting line up, however they might not be as strong against the spin of Ajmal, Hafeez, and Afridi.
However, Afridi will be missed today as news is that he is going to miss the first two T20s due to injury.
It will be interesting who Pakistan pick in their starting XI today as without Afridi they are a spinner short and Shoaib Malik is not the answer.
I hope Raza Hasan gets a game. The 20 year old left armer is the future of spin bowling in Pakistan should blood him sooner rather than later. With Afridi missing out, it is probably the best chance to give Raza a chance.
The return of Imran Nazir and the form of Nasir Jamshed also pose a question about who will open with Mohammad Hafeez.
I think Nazir and Nasir should open together with Hafeez coming in at number 3. Without Misbah and Younis in the batting line up, Hafeez will need to take on more responsibility and look to bat through. He might be able to serve that purpose the best at number 3.
My playing XI for today: 1. Imran Nazir 2. Nasir Jamshed 3. Mohammad Hafeez 4. Umar Akmal 5. Asad Shafiq 6. Shoaib Malik 7. Kamran Akmal 8. Abdul Razzaq 9. Umar Gul 10. Saeed Ajmal 11. Raza Hasan
As soon as Afridi is fit, Shoaib Malik can go back to doing what he does best - warm the bench.
The last two times that Pakistan and Australia have met each other in a T20 series, Pakistan has come out on top.
Would you bet any differently this time? When betting on cricket, get the latest cricket bet news from www.thebookiesoffers.co.uk/blog/.
Here’s hoping that the same trend continues.