The 20 Pakistani players who tested negative in the retests conducted by the Pakistan Cricket Board have already touched down on English soil for their upcoming series against England. The Greenshirts are scheduled to feature in a three-match Test series against the hosts followed by as many T20Is in the early August to early September window.
The selection committee had originally selected a 29-man squad for both the Test as well as the T20I series. However, on Tuesday, PCB confirmed that 10 players and 1 member of the support personnel, from the original 35 people set to travel, had tested positive. Replacements and reserves were slotted into the squad and all players and members of the support personnel were tested again.
Despite further tinkering with the squads, PCB overlooked some prominent names that many fans in Pakistan felt should have been considered for the three T20Is. Amongst these are some rank rookies as well as some experienced caps who have been around the Pakistan cricket circuit for an eternity.
In this article, we reflect upon four of these players who could have gotten the much-awaited call-up to the national side.
#1. Kamran Akmal
Kamran Akmal has had a career that has been embellished with promising performances at one moment and severely marred and tarnished with amateurish controversies and rumours at another. The same career that was dying a slow, anguished death, however, has been revitalized since the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League and has breathed new life into the batting prospects available to him.
Akmal has been nothing short of a giant in the PSL, dominating the batting charts in nearly all editions. In the 5 years of the league, Akmal has remained the highest run-getter in PSL, amassing 1537 runs from 57 games, and striking at a staggering rate of just under 140. He also has three scintillating tons to his name - the most by any batsman in the league's history.
With Pakistan's opening woes in T20Is given Fakhar's not-so-good returns, Akmal would have been an ideal choice, especially on decks that offer true bounce and extra zip. He could also have replaced Mohammad Rizwan, the current wicket-keeper batsman whose batting style and strokeplay does not suit T20 requirements, as many fans and experts opine.
#2. Umer Khan
Umer Khan's story is almost tailor-made for PSL and for Pakistan cricket. The first time he managed to come into the limelight was back in 2014 during the Pepsi Cricket Stars Under-19 programme. After hopping around the inter-regional teams, Umer managed to make it into Pakistan's team for the ACC Under-19s Asia Cup to be held in Sri Lanka.
In the 2019 edition of the PSL, he was picked as the 21st player in the squad, someone who is highly likely to remain benched throughout the tournament unless exceptional circumstances dictated so.
Exceptions indeed did rise as he got his debut cap following some injury concerns that engulfed the Kings' camp. In only his 2nd match, Umer went on to pluck out one of the most prized scalps in all T20 cricket - the wicket of South African legend, AB de Villiers.
It's his immaculate guile with which he bowls that assists him in snaring even the best in the business. Umer is a tough cookie and does not bog down to pressure in crunch situations.
He is not afraid to give the white cherry an extra revolution and a bit of extra flight to lure the batsmen into a tangle. He could have been a handful against an English side that comes out all-guns-blazing and knows only one way to approach limited-overs Cricket. This is what the former Pakistan coach and the current Kings coach, Mickey Arthur, had to say about him during last year's PSL:
"He has really impressed us. We've been together about a week now and he's impressed me hugely. Good attitude, wants to learn and he's a very skilled bowler. He almost seems ahead of his time."
#3. Sohail Tanvir
A globe-trotting legionnaire who emerged on the international scene with his wrong-footed leap and delivery stride, breaking a renowned stereotype attached to fast-bowling for decades.
His quick-arm action, the repertoire of slow-balls and varied-paced deliveries that he possessed along with a massive bag of tricks that he always had up his sleeves immediately bolstered him as a hot property in T20 cricket.
He went on to record stunning figures of 6 for 14 in the inaugural edition of IPL and took the cricketing world by storm.
He has represented Pakistan in all T20 World Cups apart from the 2016 edition. Over the years, a recurring knee injury, coupled with his inconsistent form, kept being the most cited reasons for his axing from the national side.
Despite that, Tanvir has managed to feature in numerous T20 leagues and competitions around the globe. In fact, he is sixth on the list of most wickets in all forms of T20 Cricket - preying 351 scalps in 336 matches - a remarkable feat in itself.
His PSL exploits are right up there with some of the best bowlers in the league - 44 wickets in as many games at an economy just under 7.5. Tanvir has been around for nearly half a decade now but it's incredible how quite a few batsmen still struggle against his dexterity. His experience could have been invaluable for Pakistan in the upcoming T20 series against England.
#4. Sharjeel Khan
An aggressive left-handed opening batsman, Sharjeel Khan has gained an excellent reputation through T20 blitzes in Pakistan's domestic competition. He was drafted by Islamabad United in the inaugural edition of the PSL and immediately made an impact through a blistering ton - the first ever in PSL history.
His sizzling strokeplay and a combative approach was hailed within Pakistan's cricketing fraternity and comparisons were drawn between him and the legendary Pakistan opener, Saeed Anwar.
It all went fell apart like a house of cards, however, for Sharjeel when he was provisionally suspended and eventually banned on charges of corruption in the PSL. Sharjeel returned to PSL in this year's edition and, although he was not as ominous as he used to be, he showed glimpses of his prime days. He scored 199 runs in the 9 games he featured in at an average of nearly 25 and a Sharjeel-esque strike-rate of 144.
Sharjeel could have been the x-factor in the upcoming three T20Is against England. It was in 2016 in the same English grounds when he took the attack to the hosts' bowling battery when no other Pakistani batsman dared to face fire with fire. On particular occasions, he totally bashed the English bowlers - the one-off T20I in Old Trafford is an excellent example.