Pakistan selectors, headed by former Test skipper Inzamamul Haq, on Friday dropped six key players including skipper Sarfarz Ahmad from a national squad named for a five-match one-day international series against Australia to be played from March 22 to 31 in United Arab Emirates. Sharjah hosts the first ODI against Australia on March 22, and the series concludes on March 31 in Dubai. Shoaib Malik will lead the 16 member squad. The 37-year-old has played 279 ODIs, including 38 as captain, winning 25 and losing 13. Fast bowler Junaid Khan, batsman Umar Akmal and leg spinner Yasir Shah have been recalled. All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez was not considered as he is recovering from surgery on his thumb. The outfit also includes uncapped quartet of Abid Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain and Saad Ali. “Sarfraz, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Afridi have been given rest to keep them fresh ahead of the World Cup in England and Wales, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in statement. The included players have either demonstrated in the domestic circuit that they have the ability and are ready to compete at the top level or have reclaimed fitness or form. “The changes have been made taking into consideration the player workload in the build up to the World Cup,” chief selector Inzamam said in the statement, pointing to their 11 matches before their first match of the showpiece event against West Indies on May 31. “This is too much cricket in a short period of time. Had there been no pre-World Cup matches in England, then we would not have made these many changes.” Inzamam said he was pleased that the selectors had been able to develop a strong bench strength that had helped them make eight changes from the previous series. “This is a good sign for Pakistan cricket as we now have a big pool of players who have the capability, talent and potential, and are raring to step up and seize the opportunity when thrown at the deep end.” Inzamam also spoke about, both, players making a comeback and those who are playing for the Men in Green for the very first time. “While Haris Sohail, Junaid, Umar and Yasir are returning to ODI cricket, Abid, Abbas, Hasnain and Saad have been rewarded for their stellar performances in domestic cricket,” he said. On recalling Yasir, Inzamam said that Pakistan was aiming to have two legspinners in the World Cup. “Yasir has been great in Test cricket and we are keeping open the possibility of having two wristspinners at the World Cup. We hope we can help him transfer his Test-match form to limited-overs cricket too.” Resting Sarfraz was something of a sensitive issue, particularly with the talk of who the World Cup captain would be just a month ago when Malik took over as Sarfraz sat out four games due to a ban. Inzamam, however, was quick to allay any fears of a late change in plan. “Sarfraz is our captain and if anyone scores runs in his absence that doesn’t mean that he should be worried about his place.” Regarding Umar, he said: “Umar we all know is immensely talented and still has plenty to offer. Sometimes, time away from international cricket allows a player to recompose and gather himself, and come back strongly. I hope this happens with this player, as a fully fit and in-form Umar will bolster the middle-order,” he said. Inzamam admitted that the series won’t be an easy one by any stretch of the imagination. “The series against the world champions will not be an easy one and these players, in fact, will be tested to their limits. This will provide these players a great opportunity to display their skills and temperament, strengthening their claims for a World Cup call-up as there are a few places up for grabs.” The Pakistan cricket team will depart for the UAE on March 18. ODI squad: Shoaib Malik (captain), Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Saad Ali, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah. Series schedule: 22 March – 1st ODI, Sharjah (d/n) 24 March – 2nd ODI, Sharjah (d/n) 27 March – 3rd ODI, Abu Dhabi (d/n) 29 March – 4th ODI, Dubai (d/n) 31 March – 5th ODI, Dubai (d/n). Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2019.