Pakistan’s cricket team is set to face a depleted New Zealand side in a five-match T20 series starting on Friday in Lahore, as eight Kiwi players are missing due to their commitments with the Indian Premier League (IPL), while captain Kane Williamson is out with a knee injury. This presents an opportunity for new players to prove themselves against a full-strength Pakistani team. Pakistan’s top cricketers played in the IPL’s first edition in 2008, but they have been barred since then due to the chilly diplomatic relations between the neighboring countries. After the T20 series, both teams will play five one-day internationals to prepare for this year’s 50-over World Cup in India.
Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam is looking forward to the challenge and has stated that his team won’t take the weakened New Zealand side lightly, emphasizing the importance of bringing their “A” game to secure good results. Pakistan’s full-strength squad includes skipper Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and Haris Rauf, who were rested for the recent losing series against Afghanistan. Their new backroom team, led by former New Zealand all-rounder Grant Bradburn and including former Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq as assistant, is preparing for the 10 matches.
Despite missing several players, New Zealand’s interim coach Shane Jurgensen is confident in his team’s abilities, having recently won a T20 series against Sri Lanka. The Black Caps had pulled out of their visit to Pakistan in September 2021 due to security concerns, making this tour somewhat of a compensation. The remaining T20 matches are scheduled for April 15, 17, 20, and 24 in Lahore and Rawalpindi.
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The Pakistan team comprises Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, and Zaman Khan. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s squad includes Tom Latham (captain), Chad Bowes, Mark Chapman, Matt Henry, Ben Lister, Adam Milne, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Rachin Ravindra, Henry Shipley, Ish Sodhi, Will Young, Dane Cleaver, Cole McConchie, and Blair Tickner.