The Pakistan U16 cricket team will depart for Dubai from Lahore tonight to take on Australia U16 in a series of five 50-over-a-side matches and one Twenty20 fixture at the ICC Academy. The series will start with the first 50-over match on Wednesday, 9 January, and culminate with the T20 game on Sunday, 20 January.
This is Australia’s return visit after Pakistan had toured Melbourne in April 2018. Australia had clinched the five-match series 3-2, while Pakistan had won the one-off T20 game by seven wickets.
The Pakistan side will be led by Umer Eman, the Lahore-born left-handed batsman and leg-spinner, who, along with Aaliyan Mehmood, Rizwan Mehmood, Samir Saqib, had also toured Australia last year.
Umer, after managing just 40 runs in four innings in Australia, had bounced back strongly by scoring 160 runs with a century and a half-century in the PCB U16 Pentangular Tournament 2018-19. In the PCB-Pepsi Stars U16 Tournament 2018-19, he scored 208 runs in seven innings at an average of 41.60 for Lahore U16 to finish the domestic season on a high.
Umer was thrilled at the opportunity of captaining the team when he termed it as a ‘dream coming true’, and also set his sights on winning all matches against Australia U16 at the ICC Cricket Academy.
We will aim to win all games in the conditions that are familiar to us, remarked Umer, adding: I want to thank the Almighty; it is a great feeling to not only represent but to captain Pakistan at a young age. It is like a dream that’s come true for me and I want to give it my absolute best.
This series is part of the PCB’s planning and strategy to provide maximum opportunities and exposure to the budding teenage cricketers in the build up to the next ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, which will be held in South Africa in 2020.
This is a big platform for the entire squad. By performing here, we can stake a claim for selection in the U19 team that will play in the ICC U19 World Cup in South Africa in 2020. We need to express ourselves and make our presence felt in the series, Umer said.
Reflecting on his visit to Australia last year, Umer said: When I played in Australia last year, I made a few mistakes but since then, I have been working extremely hard to overcome these. I am sure this series will also help me in improving my game.
International cricket at this age provides great opportunities of improvement for all of us and my goal is to work on my game all the time.
Apart from playing some solid and hard cricket in Dubai, Umer is aiming to making some friends.
In Dubai, we will come across some of the players who were part of the last series Down Under. This presents us with an opportunity of knowing the Australian players better and making some friends.
Cricket is important but even more important is to become a good human and have a friendly relationship with our rivals.
Meanwhile, Umer’s squad includes Fata’s fast bowler Farhad Khan, who at 13 years and 293 days, is the youngest member of the side.
The squad includes a good balance of batsmen, all-rounders and bowlers who are all eager to give a good account of their talent against Australia.
Batsmen like Mohammad Shehzad, Haseebullah, Rizwan Mehmood and Samir Saqib form the batting core.
Shehzad had a good time representing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the PCB U16 Pentangular Tournament 2018-19. The right-hander scored 309 runs in his five tournament innings, including one century and two half-centuries. Shehzad averaged 103 runs per innings in the event.
Left-handed Haseebullah, who represented Balochistan in the same event, scored 215 runs at 71.67 with one century and one half-century.
Rizwan and Samir topped the batting charts in the PCB-Pepsi Stars U16 One-Day Tournament 2018-19. In his seven tournament innings, Rizwan, representing Hyderabad, amassed 355 runs with the help of three half-centuries. His top score was 92 while he averaged 88.75.
Right-handed Samir scored 259 runs at an average of 51.80 in his seven tournament innings for Faisalabad with two half-centuries with a best of 74.
The squad also includes some promising spin bowlers who are relishing the prospect of bowling on the ICC Academy pitches that often help the slow bowlers. The trio of Faisal Akram, Aaliyan Mehmood and Kashif Ali have all bowled well in the domestic season.
Faisal, the left-arm spinner, led the bowling charts in the PCB U16 Pentangular Tournament 2018-19 when he bagged 10 wickets at 15.70 per wicket for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His tally included one five-wicket haul, while he maintained a steady economy rate of 4.24 per over.
All-rounder Kashif, who also bowls leg-spin, was part of the Sindh team in the same tournament in which he took nine wickets at 14.89, including one five-wicket haul. The teenager maintained an economy rate of 3.44 per over.
Karachi’s off-spinner Aaliyan was impressive in the PCB-Pepsi Stars U16 One-Day Tournament 2018-19 in which he collected 13 wickets at 11.69 per wicket in seven tournament matches.
Fast bowler Ayaz Shah, who represented Fata in the same tournament, finished with 11 wickets in seven matches at 15.27 per wicket.
Pakistan U16 side (in alphabetical order): Umer Eman (captain), Aaliyan Mehmood, Ahmed Khan, Ali Asfand, Ali Hassan, Aseer Mughal, Ayaz Shah, Faisal Akram, Farhad Khan, Haseebullah Khan, Kashif Ali (vice-captain), Mohammad Shehzad, Rizwan Mahmood, Sameer Saqib and Zubair Shinwari (wicketkeeper)
Team management: Taimoor Azam Khan (Manager), Mohammad Ashraf (coach), Hussain Khosa (Assistant coach), Rehan Khalid (physiotherapist), Imranullah (trainer) and Usman Hashmi (analyst)
? 9 January � 1st 50-over match, ICC Academy, Dubai
? 11 January � 2nd 50-over match, ICC Academy, Dubai
? 13 January � 3rd 50-over match, ICC Academy, Dubai
? 16 January � 4th 50-over match, ICC Academy, Dubai
? 18 January � 5th 50-over match, ICC Academy, Dubai
? 20 January � one-off T20 match, ICC Academy, Dubai