The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Firday announced a 16-member squad with Sarfraz Ahmed as captain for the T20 series against the World XI side next month in Lahore.
The National Selection Committee, headed by Inzamamul Haq, selected the squad for what is being as the 'Independence Cup'.
"The players consist of a combination of a fine blend of youth and senior players. Fahim Ashraf, Ruman Raees, and Aamer Yamin make a place in the squad due to their splendid performances in domestic tournaments, whereas Sohail Khan makes a comeback," Chief Selector Inzamamul Haq said. "It would be good for the young players to get a chance to play on the home ground and perform in front of the local audience."
The selected players are: Sarfraz Ahmad (Capt) (Wk), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Baber Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umer Amin, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Muhammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hassan Ali, Amir Yamin, Muhammad Amir, Ruman Raees, Usman Shinwari and Sohail Khan.
Muhammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz and Karmran Akmal did not to make it to the squad.
Former stars welcome World XI
A host of former Pakistan greats have welcomed the return of top-class cricket to the country with the three-match Twenty20 International series to be played under lights at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on 12, 13 and 15 September.
The World XI side, which has been selected and is being managed by former Zimbabwe player Andy Flower, will be led by South African captain Faf du Plessis and comprises players from seven Test playing countries.
The PCB is hopeful of more international fixtures at home following this series, which is an opportunity to show the world that the country is safe for cricket and also showcase the love people here have for the game.
Former Pakistan captains Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Moin Khan and Ramiz Raja have all welcomed the upcoming series.
"The experience of playing in front of home crowds is a different one altogether and I’m sure the Pakistan players will be much more motivated to come up with memorable performances," legendary bowling all-rounder Wasim Akram said.
He feels that "youngster are inspired to pursue the game seriously when they see their heroes in action from close quarters" and watching Pakistan players "fight it out against players from the world over" will surely help.
Glad to have so many players agreeing to visit Pakistan, Akram said: "I’m sure these matches will go a long way in portraying a positive picture of the country. The touring players will get to experience the hospitality and love for the game here firsthand and that could hopefully lead to more tours.”
Former captain and coach Waqar Younis feels that the series could not have been timed better. "Pakistan produced a superb performance just a few months ago by winning the ICC Champions Trophy and the players deserve the opportunity to display their class at home venues," he said.
"Everyone knows that the people of Pakistan have a huge passion for the game and this series creates the opportunity for them to not only watch live cricket action but also look forward to more series,” Waqar said, hoping for the tour's success,
"The paucity of cricket over this long period will have increased the appetite of fans across the country and we will hopefully see international cricket in other cities too."
Former Pakistan captain and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said: "By confirming the World XI’s tour to Lahore, cricket can proudly say that it supports one of its oldest members, whose contribution to the game are second to none."
“As all eyes will be focused on the series, this poses a golden opportunity for Pakistan to once again show that it is a peace-loving and cricket-crazy nation, which has been deprived of watching international cricket stars for no fault of theirs," a hopeful Inzamam said, urging everyone to put in their contribution.
Reminiscing of the days when international cricketers made regular appearances for Pakistani crowds, he said: “My generation of cricketers was able to make a name for itself because we played regularly at home, which helped us understand and realise what it [the game] means to the public. This realisation helped us mature and enhance our efforts so that we could come up to our fans' expectations."
"I think the current and future generation of cricketers deserve the same as this is one of the ways to the zenith of glory."
Former captain Moin Khan feels that cricket needs a strong Pakistan side and while enough was not done in the past by international cricket community, much is now changing.
"It is a massive achievement for the PCB and let us also not forget the touring cricketers who have also realised their duty towards a leading cricket playing nation."
Dismissing talk of hefty fees being charged by visiting players, Khan thinks "they deserve every penny because they are professional cricketers and cricket is their livelihood but [...] they would not have accepted any money if they had believed it was not safe to travel to Lahore."
Shahid Afridi sees the series as an ice-breaker and "a big success for Pakistan as it has been able to convince these international star cricketers that it is safe to play cricket in Pakistan."
"I think we all owe a big thanks to these international cricketers, the global cricket community, the ICC and the PCB for taking this positive step," Afridi said, stressing on the need to collectively work to make the series a success.
Like many cricket fans on both sides of the border, Afridi also thinks it "would've been great to see some Indian players" in the World XI side.
"It is a momentous occasion that needs to be applauded," Rameez Raja siad. "Let’s back this to the hilt, this is great news for all cricket fans as we are now set in the right direction."