New-look Pakistan bracing for Afghanistan T20Is
Pakistan skipper Shadab Khan vowed his new-look side will put up a good fight against a formidable Afghanistan side in the three-match Twenty20 International series starting in Sharjah on Friday.
Shadab replaced Babar Azam for the series as Pakistan decided to rest their regular skipper along with seniors Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf.
Instead, Pakistan have drafted in top performers from its domestic T20 league -- the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
"It is a great honour for me to be leading Pakistan," Shadab said on Thursday. "As a player this is the highest you can go in your career.
"I am very excited for the upcoming three T20Is. We have a brilliant mix of youth and experience, which makes us a well-balanced side, and we have what it takes to win this series."
Shadab previously led Pakistan in a three-match T20I series in New Zealand when Azam was injured, losing 2-1.
Batters Saim Ayub and Tayyab Tahir, and fast bowlers Ihsanullah and Zaman Khan are all uncapped while Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Azam Khan and Abdullah Shafique have earned recalls.
Afghanistan have also recalled former skipper Mohammad Nabi after leaving him out of the three-match T20 series against United Arab Emirates that they won 2-1 last month.
Wily leg-spinner Rashid Khan will lead the Afghanistan side, having replaced Nabi last year.
Shadab said Afghanistan were a dangerous side "and they have some good T20 players in their side but I am very confident with the players that I have in my squad."
Pakistan have beaten Afghanistan in all three previous T20Is -- a one-off match in 2013 in Sharjah, T20 World Cup 2021 and Asia Cup last year.
Pakistan agreed to play the series, the first bilateral between the two countries, in place of three one-day internationals that Afghanistan were supposed to play against Australia this month.
Cricket Australia pulled out of that series following an announcement from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban that it was banning university education for girls and not forming a women's cricket team.
Afghanistan Cricket Board chief executive Khan hoped fans will enjoy a good series.
"Both nations have passionate fans who support their teams with enthusiasm and pride," said Naseeb.
"As neighbours, we have a special bond and we hope to showcase not only our cricketing skills but also the spirit of friendship and sportsmanship."
Pakistan: Shadab Khan (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan
Afghanistan: Rashid Khan (captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Usman Ghani, Sediqullah Atal, Najibullah Zadran, Afsar Zazai, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Gulbadin Naib, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Noor Ahmad, Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Fareed Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq