Pakistan takes new guard for the first New Zealand series in 18 years

Pakistan captain Babar Azam attends a training session at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi on 15 September 2021 ahead of their first one-day international (ODI) cricket match against New Zealand.  - Farooq Naeem / AFP
Pakistan captain Babar Azam attends a training session at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi on 15 September 2021 ahead of their first one-day international (ODI) cricket match against New Zealand. – Farooq Naeem / AFP
  • Ramiz Raja has promised to transform the sixth ranked ODI team after being appointed chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
  • Former off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq has replaced Misbahul Haq as head coach, while former all-rounder Abdul Razzaq has been named his assistant.
  • First of three one-day internationals to be held in Rawalpindi on Friday.

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s new backroom team is looking for immediate influence when their one-day international team faces a largely second-tier New Zealand in a home series for the first time since 2003 this week.

International cricket in Pakistan was suspended in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lanka side in 2009, and heavy security surrounds the first of three one-day matches in Rawalpindi on Friday.

Former captain Ramiz Raja has vowed to transform the sixth-ranked ODI team after being named chairman of Pakistan’s Cricket Board on Monday following a shake-up in the team’s back room.

His rise came just a week after head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis resigned for personal reasons.

Former off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq replaced Misbah, while former all-rounder Abdul Razzaq was named his assistant.

Raja also announced that Australian greats Matthew Hayden and South African Vernon Philander have been recruited as batting and bowling coach consultants ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup next month.

Top-ranked New Zealand are without many of their top players – who are instead heading to the UAE for the Indian Premier League – including captain and leading batman Kane Williamson and tempo bowling trio Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson.

But Pakistani skipper Babar Azam does not take his opponents lightly, despite a lack of missing star names.

“It would have been nicer if their best team had come,” said Babar, who scored a brilliant hundred in the final ODI between the two teams at the 2019 World Cup in Edgbaston.

“But regardless of the composition of their team, we will play to our best and win the series.”

New Zealand have won 12 of their last 15 ODIs against Pakistan, but their inexperienced side have just suffered a 3-2 Twenty20 defeat in Bangladesh under stand-in skipper Tom Latham.

New challenge

Conditions in Pakistan will be a new challenge for New Zealand, who last toured Pakistan 18 years ago.

Pakistan hosted series against the Black Caps in the UAE in 2009, 2014 and 2018, but improved security has gradually seen the country over the last six years be able to welcome international teams to their country again.

“It is obviously very gratifying for Pakistan as a nation to have international cricket back,” Latham said.

“They’ve had a couple of series lately, and it’s obviously different.

“So for us, it’s just about trying to adapt to the conditions that we did in Bangladesh and see what we get. So another opportunity for the group and they are all looking forward to it.”

Aside from the heavy security presence in Rawalpindi, teams also have to endure life inside a biosafe bubble due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Crowds of fully vaccinated spectators up to 25% capacity will be allowed in Rawalpindi for the ODIs and in Lahore, where five Twenty20 internationals are played.

The series does not count towards the ICC World Cup Super League, which decides qualification for the 2023 50-over World Cup, because there is no referee decision analysis system in operation.

The second and third ODIs will be played in Rawalpindi on Sunday and Tuesday with Twenty20 international five-match series starting in Lahore on Saturday 25 September.

Pakistan (from): Babar Azam (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Shakeel, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir, Zahid Mahmood

New Zealand (from): Tom Latham (captain), Finn Allen, Hamish Bennett, Tom Blundell, Doug Bracewell, Colin de Grandhomme, Jacob Duffy, Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Cole McConchie, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, Blair Tickner, Will Young

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