Babar hoping paceman Rauf will regain full fitness and make an impact for Pakistan at T20 World Cup

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan captain Babar Azam is hoping Haris Rauf will regain full fitness after a shoulder injury and make an impact at next month's T20 World Cup.

Fast bowler Rauf has been included in an 18-man squad for the upcoming tours of Ireland and England, with Pakistan delaying its 15-strong party for the World Cup in the United States and West Indies until May 22.

The fitness of Rauf, Mohammad Rizwan, Irfan Khan and Azam Khan will be assessed during the seven T20s against Ireland and England.

“I wasn’t expecting that he (Rauf) would recover so early and start bowling again,” Babar told reporters in Lahore on Monday as the team prepared to fly out to Ireland, where the first T20 will be played in Dublin on Friday.

“There’s pressure on him to make a comeback. There’s lot of talk going around on his injury and how he will respond to it. But I think he will make a good response because when you give yourself proper rest mentally and physically, you can make a different impact.”

Rauf has been out since dislocating his shoulder in late February during the Pakistan Super League. Since then he has gone through rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.

The seven-member selection committee, which also includes Babar, have named fast bowler Hasan Ali, who last played a T20 international in 2022, as backup for Rauf.

Babar backed the inclusion of Hasan after pace bowlers Zaman Khan, Mohammad Wasim and the PSL’s top wicket-taker Mohammad Ali were omitted.

“There’s no injustice with anyone. We debated a lot on the World Cup combination and Hasan is there as backup for Rauf because of his experience,” Babar said. “Zaman and Ali are new-ball bowlers but we already have enough new-ball bowling options.”

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who played in two T20s against New Zealand after ending his retirement, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Abbas Afridi are Pakistan’s pace options.

Under Babar, Pakistan has done well in the last two T20 World Cups, reaching the semifinals in 2021 at the United Arab Emirates and losing to England in the final at the 2022 tournament in Australia.

The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Mohsin Naqvi, has promised a cash award of $100,000 to every player if the team wins the tournament.

“What happened in the past is in the past, unfortunately we couldn’t finish the way we wanted,” Babar said. “We’re doubly confident and believe we can bring the trophy home."

Pakistan starts its campaign against host United States in Dallas on June 6 before taking on arch-rival India in New York three days later.

White-ball head coach Gary Kirsten will likely join the team in England after completing his Indian Premier League assignment with Gujarat Titans.


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