PAK vs NZ 1st ODI: Babar Azam not sure vice-captain Shan Masood walks into Pakistan playing XI

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Pakistan captain Babar Azam is not sure whether newly appointed deputy Shan Masood will walk into the playing XI for the One-Day International series against New Zealand starting Monday.

“We can’t talk about any individual at the moment, whether he’s vice-captain or X, Y, Z,” Babar said on Sunday. “We will try to field our best playing XI and try to win the series.”

The 33-year-old left-handed batter Masood was made vice-captain in place of Mohammad Rizwan, the only wicketkeeper in the 16-man squad for the three ODIs.

Masood hasn’t played an ODI since 2019 when all five of his matches were against Australia in the United Arab Emirates. He scored 111 runs at an average of 22.20.

The interim selection committee headed by Shahid Afridi also recalled Haris Sohail, another left-handed batter. He has 1,685 runs in 42 ODIs, but hasn’t featured since October 2020 against Zimbabwe.

Two uncapped middle-order batters, Tayyab Tahir and Kamran Ghulam, were picked after scoring prolifically on the domestic circuit.

Despite a poor Test season at home, Pakistan performed well in white-ball cricket. It reached the T20 World Cup final in Australia and qualified for the Twenty20 final of the Asia Cup.

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“We know we can carry our momentum in white-ball cricket because we are back to our strength in bowling,” Babar said.

Haris Rauf has recovered from a quadricep injury picked up during his debut Test against England last month to join other fast bowlers Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim, Shahnawaz Dahani and Mohammad Hasnain in the squad.

The ODI on Monday — all three are in Karachi — will be the first between Pakistan and New Zealand since the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.

Kane Williamson, who stepped down from the New Zealand Test captaincy before the tour to Pakistan, will return to lead the ODI side. Then he’ll pass the captaincy to Tom Latham for the ODI series in India.

Fast bowler Adam Milne was withdrawn from the series due to concerns about his preparation, and Blair Tickner, who was part of New Zealand’s Test squad, has been retained.

New Zealand has flown in three white-ball specialists — opening batter Finn Allen, fast bowler Lockie Ferguson and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.

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