The National T20 Cup, underway in Rawalpindi, had assumed greater importance in terms of Pakistan’s preparations for the World Cup, which begins from Oct 17, after New Zealand abandoned their tour earlier this month due to security concerns and England followed by calling off their tour next month.
But below-par performances from the likes of batters Azam Khan and Sohaib Maqsood, pacer Mohammad Hasnain and all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz have given rise to rumours that the quartet could be replaced by Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik, Shahnawaz Dahani and Usman Qadir.
Opener Fakhar Zaman, who was named as a travelling reserve, is also being tipped to make the first-team squad.
And a Pakistan Cricket Board official did not attempt to play down the rumours.“Two changes can still be made to the World Cup squad.
The official reasoned that performances had to do with the pitches at the Pindi Stadium.
“The pitches were made for the One-day International matches against New Zealand and not for the T20 format,” the official said, with the National T20 having been shifted from Multan to Rawalpindi after New Zealand’s government had asked the team to leave Pakistan less than an hour before the start of the first of three ODI matches.
New Zealand were to play five Twenty20 Internationals at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium following the ODIs and the official was hopeful performances will pick up once the National T20 moves to Lahore from Oct 7.
“The pitches in Lahore will provide much more entertaining cricket,” said the official.
From Pakistan’s World Cup squad, only captain Babar Azam, wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan and pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi have shown good form in Rawalpindi.
With 135 runs in three matches Khyber Pakhtunkhwa skipper Rizwan is the leading scorer ahead of Babar (110) who is leading the Central Punjab team, while Rizwan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa team-mate Shaheen is the leading wicket-taker with eight in three.
Sindh’s Hasnain, who has given away 80 runs while picking up four wickets in two matches, isn’t the only bowler in the World Cup squad who has been struggling.
Mohammad Wasim of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also picked up only four wickets from three matches while giving away 88 runs but his form with the bat is impressive as he is averaging 45.
Hasan Ali has picked up three wickets in three matches while Imad Wasim and Nawaz have two from two. Leg-spinner Shadab Khan, the captain of the Northern team, is yet to pick up a wicket after two matches.
Haris Rauf, though, has shown a bit of good form, picking four wickets for 46 runs in two matches.
As far as the batters are concerned, Azam has just 35 runs from three matches while Southern Punjab captain Sohaib, who was the player of the tournament at the last Pakistan Super League, has just 42 runs from three matches.
The two players whose inclusion in the World Cup squad saw chief selector Mohammad Wasim come under fire, Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah, have also had poor returns. Khushdil has 51 runs from three outings while Asif has 53 from two.