PAK vs NZ: Wahab Riaz reacts on the speculations of rift between Shaheen Afridi and Babar Azam

Following Pakistan’s poor performance in the ICC Cricket World Cup held in India last year, where they finished fifth with only four wins out of nine matches, a significant decision was made, and Shaheen Shah Afridi was appointed as the T20I captain of Pakistan, replacing Babar Azam. This move was seen as a strategic step in preparation for the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to commence on June 1 this year in the West Indies/USA.

However, the start of Shaheen’s captaincy journey was marred by a series of defeats. Pakistan suffered a 1-4 loss to New Zealand in their away series, a result that was unexpected and disappointing. Furthermore, his team, Lahore Qalandars, had a dismal season in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), finishing at the bottom of the table after securing the title twice in 2022 and 2023. These setbacks raised serious questions about Shaheen’s leadership, ultimately leading to his replacement by Babar.

Amidst the upheaval surrounding the captaincy change, media reports began to circulate, suggesting that Shaheen was displeased with the manner in which he was removed from the captaincy. These reports gained further traction after Shaheen shared a cryptic post on social media.

Wahab Riaz’s clarification on the growing speculations of the rift between Shaheen and Babar

Wahab Riaz, the manager of Pakistan men’s national team, has curbed the rumours of a rift between Shaheen and Babar over the reinstatement of Babar as Pakistan’s captain.

“There is so much speculation we really are the ones ruining our environment. Until things were not clear, media and social media were so active that it felt if we had not gone to Kakul, they might have just hit each other,” said Wahab, as quoted by the Wisden.

“When we actually went, we saw an atmosphere as friendly as we could have seen. The boys were united. After their training and iftar, they would head to the snooker room or watch TV together. It was a really good atmosphere,” he added.

Former Pakistan cricketer requested the media not to spread rumours about players and said that the media should confirm the truth about any issue before publishing it.

“We need to confirm the truth behind such news before breaking it, these are Pakistan players who want to represent their country, and that is their collective goal, and they are united because of that, and will be. The players you talk about will win Pakistan games in the future,” the 38-year-old stated.

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Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir return to Pakistan squad against New Zealand

The five-match T20I home series of Pakistan against New Zealand will commence on April 18, 2024. The squad which Babar will head will include Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim, who are making a comeback after staying away from international cricket for many days.
Amir was away from cricket after getting banned for spot-fixing. Meanwhile, Wasim had announced his retirement in November 2023, but he took it back after the request of selectors following his impressive performance in the PSL.

Wahab called the decision to include Amir and Wasim a straightforward call amid the injury of Haris Rauf and Mohammad Nawaz’s lost form.

“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,” said Wahab.

Apart from Amir and Wasim, the squad of Pakistan also includes two uncapped players, Muhammad Irfan Khan and Usman Khan, for their exceptional performance in the PSL.

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