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Pakistan vs New Zealand 2021
Pakistan vs New Zealand 2021. Image Credits: Twitter
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Mitchell McClenaghan Tweets Not To Blame New Zealand Cricketers For Pakistan Tour Pullout

Mitchell McClenaghan, a New Zealand pacer has told Pakistan batsman all-rounder veteran Mohammad Hafeez that the BlackCaps should not be blamed for abandoning the tour of Pakistan, rather if there is someone to blame then it is the New Zealand government.

The left-arm NZ pacer Mitchell McClenaghan, who had first joined Mumbai Indians in 2015, stayed on the bench in IPL 2020 as the team management had a number of overseas options. Hence, his release from the squad didn’t surprise many. Mitchell McClenaghan has 71 wickets in 56 matches for Mumbai Indians playing from 2015 to 2019. Mitchell McClenaghan went unsold in IPL 2021 auctions.

Mitchell McClenaghan
Mitchell McClenaghan (Image Credit: Twitter)

Mitchell McClenaghan Tweets To Mohammad Hafeez Not To Blame Cricketers For Tour Pullout

New Zealand made headlines around the world when the cricket team called off its bilateral ODI and T20 series minutes before the toss for the first ODI between the two sides was scheduled to take place in Rawalpindi. The Black Caps had arrived in Pakistan after 18 years to play a cricket series. New Zealand pacer Mitchell McClenaghan has replied to Mohammad Hafeez after the Pakistan cricketer took a dig at Kiwi players on social media.

“Come now bro. This has a bad taste to it… Don’t blame the players or the organisation… blame our government. They have only acted on the advice they have received. I’m absolutely certain these young men – all wanting to prove themselves wanted to play. they had no choice,” tweeted Mitchell McClenaghan.

Mohammad Hafeez Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Mohammad Hafeez Image courtesy of ESPNcricinfo

On Saturday, veteran Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez had taken a dig at New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for postponing their tour of Pakistan citing security threats.

“Thanks to the security of Pakistan forces to make arrangements to @BLACKCAPS to reach at airport Safe & Sound. Wonder same route & same security but no threat today???” tweeted Mohammad Hafeez.

The Blackcaps abandoned their tour of Pakistan which came after an 18-year-old hiatus following a New Zealand government security alert, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) informed on Friday. New Zealand was slated to play their first match on Pakistan soil since 2003. The side was to play the hosts on Friday in the first of three ODIs in Rawalpindi, before moving to Lahore for a five-match T20 series.

Imran Khan And Jacinda Ardern Had A Teleconference Before New Zealand Decided To Abandon The Pakistan Tour

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had also spoken to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern before the Blackcaps announced they are abandoning their tour of Pakistan immediately.

Imran Khan assured Jacinda Ardern that Pakistan has one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team but instead NZC decided to return home after their government received a security alert. New Zealand Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills echoed NZC chief executive David White’s sentiments.

“We’ve been across this process throughout and are fully supportive of the decision. The players are in good hands; they’re safe — and everyone’s acting in their best interests,” he said.

Pakistan and New Zealand Prime Ministers Imran Khan and Jacinda Ardern. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
Pakistan and New Zealand Prime Ministers Imran Khan and Jacinda Ardern. (Photo Credit: Reuters)

The New Zealand cricket team on Sunday arrived in Dubai after leaving Islamabad on a charter flight. The contingent of 34 players and support staff are now settling into their Dubai hotel and undergoing their 24-hour period of self-isolation. Of this group, 24 players and support staff will return to their country New Zealand over the next week or so, as flights and MIQ rooms in New Zealand become available.

The toss for the 1st ODI between the two teams was delayed as both teams were advised to stay in their hotel rooms before news of abandonment. A global intelligence alliance issued the security alert which led to the cancellation of the Black Caps’ cricket tour to Pakistan as per a published report. The publication said citing overseas media that the intelligence came from “Five Eyes”, an intelligence alliance of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the US, and the UK.

New Zealand was scheduled to play three ODIs in Rawalpindi starting Friday (September 17) before the series shifted to Lahore for a five-match T20I series, but the entire tour now stands unilaterally postponed following the visitors’ expression of concern.

Pakistan AFP / Lindsey Parnaby
Pakistan AFP / Lindsey Parnaby
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Pakistan Named A 15 Men Squad And 3 Stand-Bys For 2021 T20I World Cup

Pakistan named a 15-member squad and 3 stand-by players for their campaign in the UAE on Monday. Sarfaraz Ahmed, Fakhar Zaman, and Faheem Ashraf were notable omissions from the Babar Azam-led side.

Pakistan on Monday named a 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup and the home T20I series against New Zealand and England. Senior members Sarfaraz Ahmed and Wahab Riaz did not find a place while the likes of fresh faces Azam Khan, Asif Ali, and Khushdil Shah made it to the squad.

 Pakistan's Babar Azam will lead Pakistan's 15-man squad at T20 World Cup (Reuters Photo)
Pakistan’s Babar Azam will lead Pakistan’s 15-man squad at T20 World Cup (Reuters Photo)

Pakistan Named A 15 Men Squad Along With 3 Standbys For T20I World Cup

Aggressive opener Fakhar Zaman and leg-spinner Usman Qadir were not picked in the 15-man squad but the two players along with Shahnawaz Dahani were picked as reserves for the T20 World Cup, starting October 17 in the UAE. Babar Azam will lead the 15-man squad which will also not have senior all-rounder Shoaib Malik.
Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez
Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez Photo: AFP
However, Mohammad Hafeez has been picked following a string of consistent performances. Mohammad Rizwan will continue to be the first choice wicketkeeper while big-hitter Azam Khan has been picked ahead of Sarfaraz Ahmed, their Champions Trophy-winning former captain, as the back-up wicketkeeper. All-rounder Faheem Ashraf and batsman Sharjeel Khan were also not picked in the main squad.
The veteran cricketer Shoaib Malik is missing from the squad having not played for Pakistan in the format since September 2020.  There are a few surprises in the squad as veteran players like Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed, who captained Pakistan in 2007 and 2016 T20 WCs respectively, did not get a chance in the squad.

Azam Khan And Mohammad Wasim Junior Preferred Over Sarfaraz Ahmed And Faheem Ashraf Respectively

The seven home T20Is (against England and New Zealand) in Lahore and Rawalpindi will be played from 25 September to 14 October, while Pakistan will proceed to take on India in a battle of former champions in their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup opener in Dubai on 24 October.

“Azam Khan is an aggressive and attacking batter who also keeps wickets, a combination that has earned him the selectors’ nod ahead of Sarfaraz Ahmed,” Chief Selector Muhammad Wasim said after announcing the squad on Monday.

“Mohammad Wasim Junior has been preferred over Faheem Ashraf due to his pace and ability to hit big shots. Wasim will bolster the fast bowling unit, which comprises Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hasnain and Shaheen Shah Afridi.”

Pakistan will proceed to take on India in ICC Men's T20 World Cup opener in Dubai on 24 October.
Pakistan will proceed to take on India in ICC Men’s T20 World Cup opener in Dubai on 24 October. (Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“Fakhar Zaman, Shahnawaz Dahani and Usman Qadir were unlucky to miss out on the selections. Sohaib Maqsood’s ability to bat and perform anywhere in the top-order has given him an edge over Fakhar, while the presence of three experienced spinners, who are also capable batters, and five genuine wicket-taking fast bowlers made it difficult for Usman Qadir to get into the side.”

Azam Khan has been impressive in the PSL off late and also made his debut for Pakistan on England tour earlier this year. The same squad will face New Zealand and England in the upcoming bilateral series at home. Pakistan has been drawn alongside India in Group 2 in the Super 12 stages of the T20 World Cup along with New Zealand and Afghanistan.

Pakistan squad for T20 World Cup in the UAE: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Azam Khan, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Wasim, Shaheen Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood.

Reserves: Fakhar Zaman, Shahnawaz Dahani and Usman Qadir.

Pakistan’s Schedule Of Matches In T20I World Cup

24 Oct – Pakistan v India, ICC T20 WC (Group 2), Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

26 Oct – Pakistan v New Zealand, ICC T20 WC (Group 2), Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

29 Oct – Pakistan v Afghanistan, ICC T20 WC (Group 2), Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai

2 Nov – Pakistan v A2, ICC T20 WC (Group 2), Sheikh Zayed International Cricket Stadium, Abdu Dhabi

7 Nov –Pakistan v B1, ICC T20 WC (Group 2), Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez
Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez Photo: AFP
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Both Mohammed Hafeez And Shoaib Malik Deserve Chance In T20I World Cup, Says Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi called for people to be elevated on merit from within the cricket board. The former skipper was also of the view that Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik should be given a chance, as the team “needs them”.

Ramiz Raja, the former Pakistan cricketer has taken over the charge as Chairman of PCB and there have been varied reactions over the same. Some reports added that Ramiz Raza is having a great bond with Indians and it might revive the bilateral series between the two nations.

Ramiz Raja. (Credits: Twitter)
Ramiz Raja. (Credits: Twitter)

Ramiz Raja Should Ensure Capable Cricketers Are Picked Based On Merit: Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi made it a point that Pakistan has a lot of talent but it needs to be groomed. He added that a capable person should take the same charge and Ramiz Raja has all the potential to manage the responsibility. The only thing he wants from the new authorities is that Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik should get a chance in the upcoming T20 WC.

“PCB Chairman should be a capable person as Ramiz Raja is but the main decision for him will be to take on people who have sincere intentions for this country and PCB, and are good quality professionals – Only such people can run an institution like PCB where capable people are appointed based on merit. With such people in place, the PCB will rise to greater heights. We have a lot of talent but it needs to be groomed,” said Afridi while speaking to the Press.

Shahid Afridi brings out his trademark starfish celebration Pakistan Super League
Shahid Afridi brings out his trademark starfish celebration Pakistan Super League

In the latest turn of events, Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi stated that a change in the chairman’s post was necessary and he has even extended his wishes to Ramiz Raja for taking up the chair.

Shahid Afridi: Both Mohammed Hafeez And Shoaib Malik Served Pakistan Well In The Past And Deserves Chance In T20I World Cup

Shahid Afridi added that team needs a lot of change when it comes to selection. Pakistan’s great players like Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik have done a lot for the team in the past and it might be Shoaib Malik’s last ICC World Cup too. Therefore, Shahid Afridi awaits what decision would be taken about them with context to T20 World Cup 2021.

“We tried a lot of things when it comes to team selection, where we tried out and gave chances to young players from whom we had a lot of expectations but they couldn’t perform. So, this is the last time Shoaib Malik will play in an ICC World Cup, so let’s give him chance. Both Hafeez and Malik have served this nation well in the past and it’s not as if we don’t have a need for them as I feel Pakistan needs them so let’s see what decision is taken about them for the upcoming T20 World Cup,” he added.

Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez PHOTO: AFP
Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez PHOTO: AFP

In the build-up to the 2021 T20 World Cup, Pakistan’s middle-order has misfired. Apart from Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, there hasn’t been a major contributor. Several youngsters have been given opportunities but they’ve failed to deliver, and Afridi wants Pakistan to consider Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik instead.

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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Ramiz Raja Terms Ravichandran Ashwin As A “One-off Genius”

Ramiz Raja has termed Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin a “one-off genius” and observed that a bowler like him does not come very often.

Ravichandran Ashwin has scalped 409 wickets in the 78 Tests he has played for India, at an excellent average of 24.69. The lanky off-spinner is also the second-fastest to take 400 wickets in the longest format of the game, with the 77 Tests he took to achieve the milestone behind only the 72 taken by Muttiah Muralitharan.

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Ramiz Raja: Ravichandran Ashwin Is An Amazing Off-spinner

During a discussion on India News about the potent Indian bowling attack for the World Test Championship (WTC) final, Ramiz Raja spoke in glowing terms about Ravichandran Ashwin.

“Ashwin is an amazing off-spinner. He has the floater, he spins the ball, delivers the ball from different angles and is intelligent. A one-off genius like him comes very rarely. So you should value him a lot,” said Raja.

Mohammad Hafeez Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Mohammad Hafeez Image courtesy of ESPNcricinfo

On being asked about Pakistan having not produced quality off-spinners after the likes of Saqlain Mushtaq and Saeed Ajmal, the cricketer-turned-commentator highlighted that the ban on the ‘Doosra’ has made such bowlers ineffective.

“The two individuals you talked about, they had based their greatness on the Doosra. Since the time the Doosra has been sidelined, the spinners have to show themselves like Ashwin,” observed Raja.

The likes of Saeed Ajmal, Shane Shillingford, Sunil Narine, and Sachithra Senanayake have faced bans in the past due to excessive bends in their bowling arms. Even Mohammad Hafeez has been stopped from bowling on multiple occasions due to an illegal bowling action.

Ramiz Raja Feels Ravichandran Ashwin Can Break Muttiah Muralitharan’s Record Of Most Test Scalps

Ramiz Raja replied in the affirmative when asked if off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin can break Muttiah Muralitharan’s record of the most Test wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin still needs almost 400 wickets to breach Muttiah Muralitharan’s record.

“The pace at which he has been taking wickets, I feel he can break the record as well if he remains fit. His greatness is that he adjusts his bowling according to the different conditions,” said Ramiz Raja.

Ramiz Raja Image courtesy of: ARY Sports
Ramiz Raja Image courtesy of ARY Sports

The former Pakistan player signed off by stating that Ravichandran Ashwin has proved that an off-spinner can be an attacking bowler even without employing the ‘Doosra’ as a variation.

“It is very difficult to be an attacking off-spinner when you do not have the Doosra. The art of off-spin changed from defensive to attacking because of the Doosra. Ashwin has so many varieties, even without the Doosra he tests the technique of the batsmen with different angles.

“He is mentally strong, has been doing captaincy, has the idea when to attack and when to be defensive. It is difficult to bowl with the fielders up and he is very accurate,” concluded Ramiz Raja.

Ravichandran Ashwin has just crossed the halfway mark of Muttiah Muralitharan‘s tally of 800 Test wickets. It will require a herculean effort from the 34-year-old to break the Sri Lankan spinner’s record considering his age. Ravichandran Ashwin is the fastest Indian bowler (also in some records the joint-fastest in the world) to reach the 400-wicket mark in Test cricket in terms of the number of innings.

In 2016, he became the third Indian to win the ICC Cricketer of the Year award. He is currently the highest-ranked spinner in Test cricket and the highest-ranked Test bowler for India on the ICC Player Rankings. He is ranked 2nd Test bowler with 850 rating points.  Among all-rounders in Test, he is ranked 4th currently with 353 rating points.

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Babar Azam Needs To Interact With Youngsters More: Ramiz Raja

Ramiz Raja, cricketer-turned-commentator remarked in a recent interview that Pakistan skipper Babar Azam should plan for the long-term to emerge as a quintessential leader.

Ramiz Raja advised Babar Azam to interact with the youngsters in the team to establish himself as a leader.

Ramiz Raja Image courtesy of: ARY Sports
Ramiz Raja Image courtesy of ARY Sports

Ramiz Raja: Babar Azam Needs To Become A Leader And Must Engage With Youngsters

He also took an indirect dig at the team management and the selectors for continuing with some of the older players like Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Hafeez in the team.

Speaking with India News, Ramiz Raja said: “Babar Azam needs to become a leader and he can only become a leader when engages with the youngsters. He will only become a leader when he takes actions in accordance with long-term planning. We take one step forward and play two new players but also play four older players.”

Pakistan AFP / Lindsey Parnaby
Pakistan AFP / Lindsey Parnaby

Speaking on the importance of Babar Azam improving as a leader, the former Pakistani cricketer added: “He needs to understand that if he wants to become a good leader, he must, one, learn to take chances. Two, improve the selection, and three, observe how the modern leadership functions.”

Pakistan recently toured Zimbabwe. While they won the three-match T20I series 2-1, they surged to a 2-0 clean-sweep in the Tests. Babar Azam became the first Pakistan captain to win his opening four Tests. Earlier, Pakistan defeated South Africa in Tests and T20Is at home earlier this year and then won the T20I and ODI series in the return series before wrapping up the African safari with T20I and Test series wins against Zimbabwe in Harare.

Pakistan completed the series win against Zimbabwe after sealing the 2nd Test by an innings and 147 runs. Babar Azam’s men had beaten Zimbabwe in the first Test by an innings and 116 runs. Earlier in the tour, Zimbabwe had lost the T20I series 2-1 to the touring Pakistan side.

Ramiz Raja: Lot Of Confusion In Pakistan Cricket Since The Roles Are Not Defined

Ramiz Raja wants Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and the team management to define the roles of individuals in the team. According to the former cricketer, well-defined roles in the team will help everyone move in the same direction, including the captain.

“There is a lot of confusion because the roles are not defined. When you lose, there is a lot of chopping in the dressing room. We need to control the mood swings and everyone needs to understand the direction, especially Babar Azam,” said Ramiz Raja during the interview.

Babar Azam
Babar Azam. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

Babar Azam, who is still in his early days as a captain, is yet to lose a Test match and Pakistan has won all the four games they played under his leadership. In ODIs, the team has won four out of six games under Babar Azam. Pakistan has also won 13 out of 21 T20Is with Babar Azam leading the side.

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Virat Kohli Can Improve His Technique By Looking At Babar Azam, Says Aaqib Javed

Aaqib Javed, Pakistan’s former pacer who is currently the head coach of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) side Lahore Qalandars, believes that India’s skipper and star batsman Virat Kohli can take a leaf out of Pakistan captain Babar Azam’s book in order to improve his technique.

Aaqib Javed also urged Babar Azam to follow Virat Kohli’s fitness routine while talking to Cricket Pakistan in an exclusive interview.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli (BCCI)

Aaqib Javed: Virat Kohli Has A Better Range Of Shots Compared To Babar Azam But Has To Improve Technique

Virat Kohli and Babar Azam’s comparison is a never-ending story. Both have been compared because currently, they are the best batsmen in their respective nations. Also, they belong to the two rival countries so the fans keep debating about the best player between the two.

“Virat Kohli has a better range [of shots] as compared to Babar Azam but he also has one area of weakness. If the ball swings, he tends to get trapped around the off-stump such as against [James] Anderson in England,” said Javed.

File image of Aaqib Javed | AFP
File image of Aaqib Javed | AFP

“When you look at Babar, you don’t see any weak areas. Just like, [Sachin] Tendulkar who also didn’t have any weak areas. Babar is technically more safe and sound but if he follows Kohli’s fitness routine he will become an even better player. Meanwhile, Kohli can improve his technique by looking at Babar so that he doesn’t get trapped,” he added. 

Babar Azam, the 25-year-old Pakistan ODI, and T20I captain had gained fame with his batting in a short period of his international career. Many experts say that he has a reflection of India’s captain Virat Kohli’s batting.

Aaqib Javed Praised Babar Azam For His Consistency And The Fact That Captaincy Hasn’t Affected His Form

Aaqib Javed also praised Babar Azam for being the backbone of the Pakistan team over the past couple of years. Babar Azam has captained Pakistan in 6 ODIs, 15 T20Is, and 2 Tests.

“During the past two or three years, Babar Azam is 50 percent of Pakistan’s batting. I never thought that he would be this consistent and even go past Virat Kohli [in ODI rankings]. Pakistan is very lucky, he came when the team was struggling and has single-handedly put the team on the right track. Even, captaincy hasn’t affected his form,” he concluded.

Babar Azam. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
Babar Azam. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

While the 32-year-old Virat Kohli has set a great example of consistency in batting and fitness which he has maintained for a long time, the 26-year-old Babar Azam has also impressed in a similar way.

The No. 1 ranked ODI batsman, No. 5 ranked Test batsman, and No. 5 ranked T20I batsman Virat Kohli has maintained the 50 plus batting average in every international format.  The No.2 ranked ODI batsman, No.6 ranked Test batsman, and No.3 ranked T20I batsman Babar Azam averages around 56 in ODIs and around 44 in Tests, and around 47 in T20Is.

While Babar Azam has around 10,000 runs in all 3 formats combined, Virat Kohli is more experienced having amassed almost 20,000 runs in ODIs and Tests combined. He is the only batsman to score more than 3000 runs in T20Is ahead of Martin Guptill, Rohit Sharma, Aaron Finch, and Mohammed Hafeez to name a few.

Shoaib Malik, PSL 2020, Pakistan, PCB, Selectors
Shoaib Malik. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
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Shoaib Malik Takes a Sly Dig at Ramiz Raja for His ‘Retirement’ Remarks

Veteran cricketer Shoaib Malik took a cheeky dig at well-known commentator Ramiz Raja for suggesting that both Malik and Mohammed Hafeez should retire from international cricket. The duo was recalled into the Pakistan T20 side in February. Malik (38) and Hafeez (39) have been vital cogs in the Pakistan line-up for years.

Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez
Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez (Image Credit: Google)

Malik in response said that Ramiz should also join them and that all three should hang up their boots from their respective professions. “Yes, Ramiz bhai agreed. Since all 3 of us are the end of our careers let’s retire gracefully together – I’ll call and let’s plan this for 2022?” Malik tweeted.

Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez should retire gracefully: Ramiz Raja

Ramiz had earlier stated that Malik and Hafeez should leave international cricket with respect and gracefully. “I come across both during my assignments; that is why I avoid making personal comments. There is no doubt both have served Pakistan cricket well all these years. But now I think it is time they gracefully retired from the Pakistan team,” he said.

Ramiz Raza,
Ramiz Raja feels India-Pakistan should continue playing to save cricket

Ramiz, 57, played 57 Tests and 198 ODIs for Pakistan, including the successful 1992 World Cup campaign. “I think if they retire now, it will help Pakistan cricket. We have a good pool of players, and we must move ahead,” he added.

Mohammad Hafeez
Mohammad Hafeez. Credits: Getty Images

Hafeez had earlier said that he would retire from cricket at the end of the World T20 in Australia. Malik, however, remained tight-lipped about his future. He brought the curtains down on his Test career four years ago. Fans haven’t been amused about the comeback of the duo in the shortest format of the game. Pakistan hasn’t been at their best at ICC events barring the 2017 Champions Trophy, where they beat arch-rivals India to lift the trophy.