Pakistan's Babar backs Hasan to make comeback

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan captain Babar Azam is backing Hasan Ali to return to international cricket after the fast bowler was dropped for the one-day international series against the Netherlands and the T20 Asia Cup.

“I know Hasan Ali is not in form, but it’s not like that he has to prove anything,” Babar said in Lahore on Thursday as Pakistan prepared to leave for the Netherlands.

“I support Hasan Ali because he’s a team man … domestic cricket is coming up, he’ll play that and hopefully make a strong comeback.”

Pakistan faces its Dutch hosts in the first of three ODI matches on Tuesday at Rotterdam.

Hasan’s indifferent form in white-ball cricket finally forced selectors to drop the fast bowler and include uncapped pacer Naseem Shah in the white-ball format.

Hasan has played three ODIs over the last year, taking just two wickets at a staggering average of 76.50. He had a below-par Pakistan Super League where he took nine wickets in games and proved expensive with an economy rate of 10.84.

The fast bowler also didn’t do well at last year’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, picking up only five wickets at an average of 41.40.

Pakistan will test its bench strength in the series against the Netherlands. Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has a knee injury which he sustained during the first test against Sri Lanka last month, but will be touring with the team to the Netherlands.

“We’re taking a couple of doctors on the way to take care of Shaheen,” Babar said. “We’re looking long term at his fitness and health. We want him to play a game against the Netherlands, provided he’s fit, and be ready for the Asia Cup.

“Our fast bowling bench strength is excellent. They’ve now got an opportunity to showcase their skills. This is how you expand your pool.”

Rain in Lahore over the last week hit Pakistan’s preparations with the team getting only one practice game. Babar expected England-like cooler weather in Rotterdam and the team had simulated the conditions by practicing with the air-conditioning on indoors at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.

Veteran Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez will not be part of Pakistan’s team for the Asia Cup, which starts in the UAE from Aug. 27. Malik was not considered for selection while Hafeez has quit international cricket.

“When senior players leave the side, those replacing them need to focus,” Babar said. “Hafeez and Malik were huge players and we’ll miss them a lot.

“Players like Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah and Iftikhar need to fill their boots. We want to give them plenty of matches and confidence, and these players have performed. We’re also looking to utilize Shadab Khan’s batting, because batting depth is very useful in T20 cricket now.”


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