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Pak announces squad for Zimbabwe T20s, Sami, Malik included

LAHORE: Speedster Mohammad Sami made a comeback after two-and-a-half years as Pakistan on Tuesday announced its 15-member squad for two Twenty20 Internationals against Zimbabwe.

Sami, 34, has been overlooked since he played the last of his five T20s against Sri Lanka in June 2012.

Other than Sami, former captain Shoaib Malik and middle order batsman Umar Akmal has also returned to the Pakistan’s T20 squad.

All-rounder Shoaib Malik, who last competed in the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh last year, proved his mettle after leading the Sialkot Stallions to the domestic T20 title on Monday.

Middle order batsman Umar Akmal, who failed to impress in the World Cup earlier this year, was recalled after being omitted from the series against Bangladesh.

Two uncapped players — Imad Wasim and Nauman Anwar — were rewarded for their impressive performance in recent domestic matches. Meanwhile, ace spinner Saeed Ajmal and left-arm fast bowler Sohail Tanvir failed to convince selectors for their selection.

Under the captaincy of star all-rounder Shahid Afridi, the squad comprises Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Hammad Azam, Wahab Riaz, Bilawal Bhatti, Nauman Anwar, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Mukhtar Ahmed and Mohammad Sami.

Zimbabwe are scheduled to play two T20 and three One-Day Internationals at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. The two T20s would be played on May 22 and 24 respectively.

Zimbabwe cricket team became the first full-member ICC team to tour Pakistan in six years when its squad landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport earlier today amid high security arrangements.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) says it has “foolproof” security involving thousands of police to protect Zimbabwe as they shuttle between their five-star hotel and the Gaddafi Stadium.

The area around the venue will be cordoned off, with various security checkpoints for fans, and paramilitaries will watch the area around the clock with constant surveillance from rooftops and helicopters.

“It is our first step towards the goal of reviving international cricket and we will leave nothing to chance to make this tour safe and successful,” PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said.

Forced to host home games in neutral venues like the United Arab Emirates, the PCB estimates it has lost $120 million in TV rights and extra overheads.

Even hosting Zimbabwe will cost PCB more than $1 million, half of which is for the visitors’ fees and expenses. Not much of the outlay will be recouped by sponsorships and gate proceeds.

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