Uncapped middle-order batter Muhammad Irfan Khan and flamboyant opener Usman Khan have been named in the 17-player Pakistan men’s cricket team for the five-T20I series against New Zealand, which will be played in Rawalpindi and Lahore from 18-27 April.

The two highly-talented players have earned the selectors’ nod following impressive performances in the HBL Pakistan Super League.

Irfan Khan of Karachi Kings was adjudged the Emerging Player and Best Fielder of the HBL PSL 9 after scoring 171 runs at a strike-rate of 140.16. Overall, the 21-year-old Mianwali-born Irfan has featured in 34 T20s in which he has scored 499 runs at a strike-rate of 135.96. Irfan has also represented Pakistan in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cups 2020 and 2022.

Usman Khan of Multan Sultans smashed two centuries and two half-centuries in the most recent event to help his side reach the final where they lost to Islamabad United in a last-ball thriller. In the HBL PSL 8, the 28-year-old Karachi-born right-hander had smashed a 36-ball century against Quetta Gladiators – the fastest century in the tournament’s history. Overall, Usman has featured in 36 T20s in which he has scored 1,207 runs at a strike-rate of 146.12.

Irfan Khan on his selection:

“I am deeply honoured to have been selected in the Pakistan squad for the upcoming T20I series against New Zealand. Breaking into such a formidable team like Pakistan is a testament to the dedication and effort I have put into my game. Now, my focus is on seizing this opportunity and solidifying my position within the team.

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“I am fully committed to continuing to work diligently and proving myself worthy of the trust placed in me by the captain and selectors.”

Usman Khan on his selection:

“Being chosen to represent one’s country is the ultimate dream and goal for any athlete. Today, I am absolutely thrilled and filled with joy as the selectors have granted me the opportunity to be part of the upcoming series against New Zealand.

“This selection validates the relentless effort and dedication I have poured into my craft, and I am fully committed to upholding the high standards I have set for myself.”

Selection committee member and batting coach Mohammad Yousuf:

“On behalf of the selection committee, I extend heartfelt congratulations to Muhammad Irfan Khan and Usman Khan on their inclusion in the Pakistan men’s cricket team for the upcoming home series against New Zealand. Both players have undeniably earned their spots through a string of consistent, outstanding performances.

“We hold great optimism and belief in their potential to become key impact players, yet recognise that this requires ongoing dedication and effort. I trust that both players will continue their upward trajectory, sparing no effort in proving themselves worthy of the selectors’ and captain’s trust and confidence.”

Abrar retained, Imad and Mohammad Amir recalled

The other uncapped player in the squad is wrist spinner Abrar Ahmed. He was named in the squad for the T20I series against New Zealand earlier this year, but returned after Australia Tests due to fitness reasons. He will be the second wrist spinner in the side along with Usama Mir.

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Also named in the squad are all-rounder Imad Wasim and fast bowler Mohammad Amir. The two experienced campaigners had become available after coming out of retirement last month.

Imad has played 66 T20Is in which he has scored 486 runs at a strike-rate of 131.7 and taken 65 wickets at an economy-rate of 6.26. He last played for Pakistan 12 months ago at his home ground in Rawalpindi against New Zealand.

Amir, who last played for Pakistan in August 2020 at Old Trafford against England, has played in 50 T20Is in which he has taken 59 wickets at an economy-rate of 7.02.

Selection committee member and senior team manager Wahab Riaz:

“The decision to include Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir was a straightforward one, given their availability for selection and considering Haris Rauf’s injury and Mohammad Nawaz’s current form. Both Amir and Imad possess undeniable match-winning capabilities, and we trust they will consistently deliver strong performances to bolster the team’s objectives.

“We have communicated our overarching selection policy and strategy to all elite players, and there is complete alignment within the group. To ensure the policy’s implementation in letter and spirit, I will closely collaborate with the team management during the series.

“As we prepare for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 in the USA and West Indies, this series holds significant importance for Pakistan. Rather than solely focusing on the formidable New Zealand side, we aim to introspect and identify areas for improvement. I anticipate that players will seize the opportunities presented to strengthen their claims for the World Cup.”

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Pakistan squad for New Zealand T20Is:

Babar Azam (captain)
Abrar Ahmed
Azam Khan
Fakhar Zaman
Iftikhar Ahmed
Imad Wasim
Mohammad Abbas Afridi
Mohammad Rizwan
Mohmmad Amir
Muhammad Irfan Khan
Naseem Shah
Saim Ayub
Shadab Khan
Shaheen Shah Afridi
Usama Mir
Usman Khan
Zaman Khan

Non-travelling reserves: Haseebullah, Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sahibzada Farhan, and Salman Ali Agha