Shadab Khan to lead Pakistan in T20Is against Afghanistan under interim leadership of Abdul Rehman

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The Pakistan Cricket Board has announced a different-looking Pakistan team for a T20I series against Afghanistan in order to rest several of their key stars, including skipper Babar Azam. The team also got a new interim head coach Abdul Rehman while Umar Gul would serve as the bowling coach.

The Pakistan cricket team have kickstarted their preparations for major upcoming marquee ICC events over the next two years by setting out on a concrete plan of action to extract talent and keep key players fresh, as reflected in their latest announcements. The PCB on Wednesday announced new additions to the team's coaching staff, a day after the squad announcement featuring a host of unexpected names and miss-outs.

Veteran domestic coach Abdul Rehman was named the side's interim head coach for an upcoming T20I series against Afghanistan, despite the board's ongoing talks with Mickey Arthur to be appointed team director after Saqlain Mushtaq's tenure as head coach ended last month. Rehman leads Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan's domestic leagues and is currently with Multan Sultan as the assistant coach, helping take the side to the qualifiers in the ongoing season in style with a second-place finish in the league stage. Rehman would be joined by former Pakistan spearhead Umar Gul as bowling coach, having represented the national team in 237 games across formats and was a major reason behind the Men in Green lifting the 2009 World T20.

"Can’t express in words what a great honour this is for me, want to thank the PCB management and the chairman for their trust in me and giving me this opportunity to serve Pakistan. It is now time to make the most of my experience and do justice with this responsibility," Rehman tweeted after the announcement.

As for the squad, five regulars namely skipper Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf and Fakhar Zaman would not be travelling to the United Arab Emirates for the three-match endeavour starting March 24. The decision was made keeping workload management in mind with the all-important ODI World Cup scheduled for later in the year.

In Babar's absence, all-rounder Shadab Khan would take the reigns of the side while the exclusion of senior players has also paved the way for a host of youngsters and axed former stars who have managed to make an impact at PSL 2023. The most standout call-ups were the uncapped Saim Ayub and Tayyab Tahir 

"Afghanistan series is the training ground to test our youngsters. I am not worried about winning or losing to Afghanistan - if we find few talented youngsters, it will serve the purpose. The series is largely about blooding our new talent and developing them," PCB chief Najam Sethi was quoted saying by ESPN Cricinfo.

"Babar will remain our captain in all the three formats. I have taken all the senior players into confidence and they all will be part of the team in future, there's no question about this. Shadab Khan has been the vice-captain and an automatic choice to take captaincy in Babar's absence, so he will lead the side. He is a wonderful allrounder, scoring runs, taking wickets and showing great temperament leading Islamabad United [in the PSL]. So he is the right man to lead the young side," Sethi added.

Pakistan's squad for Afghanistan T20I series: Shadab Khan (captain), Abdullah Shafique, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Tayyab Tahir, Zaman Khan.

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