National T20 Cup assumes greater importance for Pakistan’s World Cup preparations

With New Zealand’s last-minute abandonment of their series against Pakistan followed by England calling off their tour next month, the national team’s cricketers will now fine-tune their preparations for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup at the National T20 Cup, which has been shifted from Multan to Rawalpindi.

The national event will be held in two phases with the first at the Pindi Stadium, the venue for the three-match One-day International series against New Zealand, from Sept 23 to Oct 3 and the second at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, where the Kiwis were due to play five Twenty20 Internationals, from Oct 6-13.

“The event starting later this week has become even more important and critical as members of the Pakistan squad for next month’s ICC T20 World Cup will be in action,” the Pakistan Cricket Board said in a news release announcing the tournament. “With each player to get, at least, 10 matches, they will aim to strike form and fitness that can help them to be in their best shape when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates on 15 October.”

PCB chairman Ramiz Raja said that it was up to the players to show the world that they were not distracted by the events of last week, when New Zealand decided to recall its team from Pakistan due to a security threat just minutes before the first ODI was to start on Friday.

“Following the postponement of the New Zealand series, the National T20 provides an opportunity to our elite cricketers to maintain their focus and composure, show the world that they have not been distracted by the events of last week and continue with their preparations for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup,” Ramiz was quoted as saying in the news release.

“The participation of our finest cricketers in the National T20 will also enhance the reputation, value and significance of the tournament, while providing the next generation of cricketers a chance to rub shoulders with the national stars and learn the art of preparing and performing at the highest level.”

Later on Monday, England announced that its men’s and women’s teams will not be touring Pakistan due to security concerns.

Players of the national team for the World Cup have been divided into the six Cricket Association teams. From that squad, four will be captains of their sides including Pakistan skipper Babar Azam (Central Punjab), wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Sohaib Maqsood (Southern Punjab) and Shadab Khan (Northern).

Former Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed will lead Sindh while opener Imam-ul-Haq has been named captain of Balochistan.

Other members of the Pakistan’s World Cup squad playing the National T20 Cup are Azam Khan, Khushdil Shah (both Southern Punjab), Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hafeez (both Central Punjab), Imad Wasim (Northern), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh), Asif Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz (all Northern) and, Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Shaheen Shah Afridi (both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

Travelling reserves with the World Cup squad, Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Shahnawaz Dahani (Sindh) and Usman Qadir (Central Punjab) will also be in action.

(This story has been published from Such TV feed, without modifications to the text)