Muneeba, Aiman make a comeback; Sana Mir left out of Pakistan’s squad for the T20 World Cup

Sana Mir exults after picking up a wicket. ©ICC

In a shock move, Sana Mir, the former Pakistan captain and the team’s highest wicket-taker in T20Is, has been left out of their squad for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 to be held in Australia beginning on February 21. Mir, who recently announced that she was going to take an indefinite break from cricket ahead of the limited overs series against England in Malaysia, returned to competitive cricket during the recent domestic T20 tournament held in Karachi. However, the selectors chose to look beyond the experienced campaigner, putting together a young squad for the mega event next month.

This is the first time in ten World Cups- over a period of 15 years – that Pakistan will be without Mir.

“The team has been selected keeping in mind the current form and performances along with the conditions in Australia and, at the same moment, we have come up with the right balance of youth and experience which will complement each other in the mega event,” Urooj Mumtaz Khan, Pakistan’s chief national selector, said on Monday (January 20).

“Though Sana Mir doesn’t feature in the 15-player line-up, I believe we still have the desired experience in the squad. Sana has been a phenomenal servant of Pakistan cricket while being an inspiration to many girls out there. Unfortunately, her recent performances in the T20 format were not on her side.”

The 15-member squad sees the return of opener Muneeba Ali and medium pacer Aiman Anwer. Uncapped teenager Ayesha Naseem, another young batter, earned her maiden call-up to the national squad. The trio have replaced Nahida Khan, Ayesha Zafar and Rameen Shamim in the T20I team that took on England in Malaysia late last year.

Muneeba, who last played for Pakistan during the 2018 World T20 in the Caribbean, has earned back her place in the squad on the back of a mountain of runs in the domestic tournament. The left-hander amassed a total of 292 runs in just five matches at an average of 58.40, including a century and three half-centuries.

15-year-old Naseem’s blistering approach at the top of the order impressed the selectors enough to be included in a line-up that consists of several experienced batters. The youngster, who scored her runs at a strike rate of 206 during the domestic T20 tournament, will have the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of skipper Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Nida Dar, Iram Javed, Omaima Sohail and Aliya Riaz who will likely form the core of the batting unit.

She joins fellow teenager Syeda Aroob Shah, the 16-year-old leg-spinner, in what is a very young group of players whose average age is only 24.8.

Anwer, on the other hand, comes in to the team as an additional pace bowling option. She took four wickets in five matches, bowling most of her overs in the power play, yet having an economy only a tad above 7 runs an over. She joins Diana Baig, Fatima Sana and Riaz in an otherwise spin-heavy line-up.

Mir’s exclusion aside, the spin contingent has a familiar look to it, with the finger-spinning pair of Anam Amin and Dar set to lead the attack. They will also enjoy the services of Aroob, left-arm spinner Sadia Iqbal and he part-time spin of Maroof.

“I am pleased that we have come forward with the best possible line-up which has the potential to have an impressive run at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup,” Maroof said. “We have tried to strike the right balance of youth and senior players.”

“It was a tough decision to leave out Sana Mir. I wanted to have her in the squad over which I, along with the selection committee, had deep deliberations. We had to decide between her and the emerging players who had been impressing on all the stages.”

The squad will first undergo an eight-day training camp in Karachi between January 23 to 30, after which they will depart for Australia on January 31. They will then play three matches against West Indies on February 7, 9 and 11.

Pakistan, who are placed in Group B alongside England, South Africa, Thailand and West Indies, begin their T20 World Cup campaign on February 26 against West Indies.

Squad: Bismah Maroof (captain), Aiman Anwer, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Iram Javed, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Syeda Aroob Shah.

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