Karachi:The national selection committee today sprang a surprise by naming two specialist spinners while expectedly including young wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed in pace of Kamran Akmal in the 15-member Pakistan squad for the Asia Cup starting Tuesday.
The selectors went for 30-year-old off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and young leg-spinner Mansoor Amjad, who played a Twenty20 international against Bangladesh earlier this year at home.
While Ajmal is a pure spinner who has done well in domestic cricket, Mansoor is also an exciting fielder and a capable batsman and is known more as an all-rounder.
The selectors also picked four pacers led by Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir.
As expected, young keeper Sarfraz Ahmed walked into the team in preference to experienced Akmal who has been dropped after playing virtually non-stop cricket since 2004 when he replaced Moin Khan in the national squad.
Experienced all-rounder Shahid Afridi was also cleared of any major fitness worries after he had hurt his wrist during the recent tri-series in Bangladesh, to find a place in the team.
The selectors also included left arm spinner all-rounder Fawad Alam giving Pakistan a strong four pronged spin attack for the tournament with captain Malik also a handy off-spinner although lately troubled by a shoulder problem that has restricted his bowling.
In the batting department, young southpaw Nasir Jamshed has been entrusted with the task of opening with Salman Butt although indications are that Malik might promote himself to have more bowling options for the flat Pakistani pitches.
An official of the Pakistan cricket Board said the selectors had finalised the list after consulting captain Shoaib Malik and coach Geoff Lawson who supervised a short conditioning camp in Karachi where Pakistan, India and Hong Kong are based in the preliminary rounds of the six-nation tournament. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and United Arab Emirates are based in Lahore for the qualifying matches.
"The idea is that keeping in mind the nature of the Pakistan pitches, the selectors and team management felt it would be better to lay more stress on the spinners," the official said.
Pakistan squad: Shoaib Malik (Capt), Misbah-ul-Haq (Vice Capt), Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam, Sohail Tanvir, Sarfraz Ahmed, Rao Iftikhar, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Mansoor Amjad.