With the 2019 ICC World Cup in England just over a month away, the excitement has been building up with participating countries naming their respective squads for the tournament.
New Zealand, India, Australia and England are some of the countries who have already named their squads for the World Cup as the final deadline of April 23 approaches.
Pakistan’s 23-man probable squad for the World Cup recently underwent a two-day fitness training camp with the final 15-man squad set to be announced on Thursday.
Ahead of the all-important squad announcement, we take a look at the key talking points.
In Pakistan’s recent 5-0 ODI drubbing at the hands of Australia in the UAE, opener Fakhar Zaman was handed a rest with Shan Masood and Abid Ali given the chance to audition.
Both players made their respective ODI debuts in the series with Masood aggregating 111 runs from four appearances with a fine half-century in the final match.
Abid Ali, meanwhile, scored a superb 112 on his ODI debut before being dismissed for a duck in his second outing.
While Fakhar and Imam-ul-Haq will surely take the opening slots for Pakistan in the World Cup, they will want an able back-up option and it will be interesting to see who among Masood and Abid the selectors will finally tilt towards.
It is in the pace department where Pakistan’s biggest headaches are with regards to the World Cup squad selection. There are several contenders for the pace attack which includes Hasan Ali, Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan and the three Mohammads – Abbas, Amir and Hasnain.
Of them, Hasan and Shaheen are certain to board the World Cup plane but the make up of their supporting cast remains up in the air. While Abbas has always been a Test specialist, Hasnain is still an inexperienced teenager with just three ODIs under his belt.
Then there is Amir who has failed to pick up a single wicket in nine of his last 14 ODI appearances with his white-ball struggles an open secret. Add in Junaid’s unflattering injury record into the mix and the picture become even murkier.
Who among the remaining pacers joins Hasan and Shaheen on the World Cup plan remains anyone’s guess at the moment.
YO-YO FITNESS TEST CLOUD
While there are several puzzles to solve for Pakistan’s selectors ahead of Thursday’s announcement, the recent results of the Yo-Yo fitness test have thrown up a few problems.
As many as five players including stand-in skipper Imad Wasim were reported to have failed the Yo-Yo test during the ODI whitewash at the hands of Australia. The team management has made it clear that all players travelling for the World Cup will have to pass the fitness test at any cost and that could prove to be decisive with several players currently struggling.
Imad is still recuperating from a knee-flare up and was reportedly unable to take the test in the recently concluded fitness camp at Lahore. The all-rounder is set to be provided with another chance to prove his fitness before the World Cup gets underway.
Meanwhile, Abid and Hasnain were two of the players to fail the test in the Australia series and as such, their selection could be in jeopardy depending on the progress they have made ever since.
Jofra Archer was handed his maiden ODI call up as England named their 15-man preliminary squad for the 2019 ICC World Cup as well as a 17-man squad for the limited-overs clashes against Pakistan and Ireland.
While Archer was not included in the 15-man preliminary squad for the World Cup, the Barbados-born pacer has been named in the squads for the five-match ODI series against Pakistan as well as the T20 clashes against the same opponents along with a one-off ODI against Ireland.
Archer still remains in contention to make England’s final World Cup squad which will be announced after the five-match ODI series against Pakistan culminates on May 19.
The 24-year-old fast-bowler was widely expected to be handed his maiden England call-up after the residency rules were relaxed recently in his favour by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Congratulations on your first England call-up @craig_arch! 🙌— England Cricket (@englandcricket) April 17, 2019
He has been selected along with @CJordan for our ODI series against Pakistan.
Full details: https://t.co/aJhU14uCsJ#CWC19 pic.twitter.com/AHIfTSIcNM
“In line with ICC regulations, we have to name a preliminary squad of 15 for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup before April 23,” England National Selector Ed Smith stated.
“However, all 17 players named in the Royal London ODIs against Pakistan can stake a claim to be in the final 15-man squad, finalised at the end of that series.
“The selection panel has been impressed with Jofra Archer’s performances in domestic and franchise cricket. He is a very talented and exciting cricketer.”
While England’s 15-man World Cup preliminary squad is the same as the one that recently took on West Indies in an ODI series. Archer and his Sussex team-mate Chris Jordan are the two additions for the clashes against Pakistan.
ENGLAND PRELIMINARY WORLD CUP SQUAD
Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
ENGLAND 17-MAN SQUAD FOR PAKISTAN ODIs
Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
ENGLAND 14-MAN SQUAD FOR IRELAND ODI AND PAKISTAN T20
Eoin Morgan (c), Jofra Archer, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Chris Jordan, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood
With England set to announce their 15-man squad for the 2019 ICC World Cup on Wednesday, all-rounder Chris Woakes has stated that a potential call up for Jofra Archer would be ‘morally unfair’ on the rest of the players.
West Indies-born Archer is in the process of being fast-tracked into the England international setup and is widely expected to make the cut for the 15-man squad for the World Cup.
Archer’s Rajasthan Royals team-mate Ben Stokes had only recently described the pacer as the most ‘naturally gifted’ bowler he has even seen but Woakes feels that including him in the World Cup squad could have wider ramifications.
“It probably wouldn’t be fair, morally, but at the same time it’s the nature of international sport,” Woakes told BBC Sport.
“If he was to come in and someone was to miss out, it would be extremely unfortunate. We’ve been a tight-knit group for the last two to three years, played some really strong cricket, won a lot of series.
“I wouldn’t want to see any of my mates and teammates miss out.”
England will announce a 17-man squad for upcoming ODI clashes against Ireland and Pakistan on Monday as well with Archer set to feature. While Woakes believes Archer’s call-up could be unfair on other squad members, the all-rounder does not feel it will disrupt England’s preparations in a big way.
“I don’t think it would disrupt the team, because everyone would find a way to move on and we’re trying to win a World Cup for England. That’s the bigger picture,” Woakes said.