(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The cream of Pakistan’s talent will be on display in the National T20 Cup which explodes into action at the Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi on September 23.
This premier event now holds the key in preparing for the ICC T20 World Cup being staged in Oman and United Arab Emirates after New Zealand deserted their tour to Pakistan minutes before first One Day International in Rawalpindi on September 17 and England followed by cancelling to next month’s visit for T20 International on mysterious security reasons.
It will be Babar Azam versus Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan versus Shadab Khan, Sharjeel Khan versus Naseem Shah, Fakhar Zaman versus Shahnawaz Dahani and Hasan Ali versus Imam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) highlighted in its media release.
The 18 Rawalpindi-leg matches, which were earlier planned for Multan, will now be played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium until October 3 while Gaddafi Stadium will remain the venue of the remaining 15 matches that will commence on October 6. Both semifinals will be played on October 12 with the first match to commence at 1500 and second match to begin at 1930.
The National T20 is a fiercely-contested and highly entertaining tournament. It not only provides opportunities to cricketers to stake claims in the national side but leading performers get a chance to be included in the HBL PSL player draft and then picked up by the franchises.
The event starting on September 23 has become even more important and critical as members of the Pakistan squad for next month’s ICC T20 World Cup will be in action.
With each player to get at least, 10 matches, they will aim to strike form and fitness that can help them to be in their best shape when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates on October 15.
“Following the postponement of the New Zealand series, the National T20 provides an opportunity to our elite cricketers to maintain their focus and composure show the world that they have not been distracted by the events of last week and continue with their preparations for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup,” the PCB Chairman, Ramiz Raja, remarked.
“The participation of our finest cricketers in the National T20 will also enhance the reputation, value and significance of the tournament, while providing the next generation of cricketers a chance to rub shoulders with the national stars and learn the art of preparing and performing at the highest level. With your enthusiasm, wishes and backing, Pakistan cricket will continue to move forward,” he added.
Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan will lead defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, runners-up Southern Punjab will be captained by hard-hitting top-order batter Sohaib Maqsood.
Babar Azam, Pakistan’s all-format captain and second ranked T20I batsman, will captain Central Punjab and Pakistan’s ODI opener Imam-ul-Haq will lead Balochistan. Sindh have kept faith in former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed while Pakistan white-ball vice-captain Shadab Khan will be in-charge of Northern.
Apart from Babar, Rizwan, Shadab and Sohaib, other members of the ICC T20 World Cup squad to feature in the 33-match National T20 are Azam Khan, Khushdil Shah (both from Southern Punjab), Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hafeez (both from Central Punjab), Imad Wasim (Northern), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh), Asif Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz (all Northern) and, Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Shaheen Shah Afridi (both from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Shahnawaz Dahani (Sindh) and Usman Qadir (Central Punjab) will also be in action. They have been named as the traveling reserves
Balochistan: Imam-ul-Haq (captain), Bismillah Khan (vice-captain and wicketkeeper), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai, Akbar-ur-Rehman, Akif Javed, Amad Butt, Ayaz Tasawar, Gohar Faiz, Haris Sohail, Jalat Khan, Junaid Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Khurram Shahzad, Mohammad Ibrahim Snr, Umaid Asif and Yasir Shah
Central Punjab: Babar Azam (captain), Hasan Ali (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Ahmed Safi Abdullah, Ahmed Shahzad, Ehsan Adil, Faheem Ashraf, Hussain Talat, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Akhlaq (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Hafeez, Qasim Akram, Saif Badar, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz and Waqas Maqsood
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Mohammad Rizwan (captain and wicketkeeper), Shaheen Shah Afridi (vice-captain), Adil Amin, Arshad Iqbal, Asif Afridi, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imran Khan Snr, Israrullah, Maaz Khan, Mohammad Haris (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Imran Khan, Mohammad Wasim, Mussadiq Ahmed and Sahibzada Farhan
Northern: Shadab Khan (captain), Mohammad Nawaz (vice-captain), Rohail Nazir (wicketkeeper), Ali Imran, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Musa Khan, Nasir Nawaz, Salman Irshad, Sohail Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umer Amin, Zaman Khan and Zeeshan Malik
Sindh: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain and wicketkeeper), Anwar Ali (vice-captain), Abrar Ahmed, Ahsan Ali, Danish Aziz, Hassan Mohsin, Khurram Manzoor, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Hasnain, Muhammad Taha, Ruman Raees, Saud Shakeel, Shan Masood, Shahnawaz Dahani, Sharjeel Khan and Zahid Mahmood
Southern Punjab: Sohaib Maqsood (captain), Zeeshan Ashraf (vice-captain), Amir Yamin, Azam Khan (wicketkeeper), Dilbar Hussain, Faisal Akram, Hassan Khan, Imran Randhawa, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Ilyas, Naseem Shah, Salman Ali Agha, Tayyab Tahir, Umer Khan, Zain Abbas and Zia-ul-Haq