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Misbah defends selection of Sharjeel Khan for T20s in Africa

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The Associated Press
The Associated Press
 2021-03-25
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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq defended the selection of Sharjeel Khan for next month’s Twenty20 internationals against South Africa and Zimbabwe despite questions about the lefthanded opening batsman’s fitness.

The team leaves Friday for Johannesburg to play three ODIs and four T20s starting April 2, followed by two test matches and three T20s in Zimbabwe.

Khan returns to the national team after more than four years away. He had been banned for his involvement in a Pakistan Super League spot-fixing scandal in 2017. His initial five-year ban was reduced by half on appeal.

While recalling Khan, chief selector Mohammad Wasim had said that Khan hadn’t regained full fitness but was still selected because of his power hitting in the first six overs of Twenty20 game.

“We are not bringing the standards of fitness down,” Misbah told reporters on Thursday during a virtual press conference. “We will simplify the fitness standards by giving certain targets to players like whether they are overweight, their fat level and endurance level.”

Misbah said Khan has been given a fitness program that will produce results by the time Twenty20s begin in South Africa on April 10.

“We were in agreement that we will plan and allocate the time he (Khan) is with us,” Misbah said. “We got everyone to play domestic cricket and it was a busy and tough year all around COVID-19, but now we have time and hopefully, you will see that his fitness will get better.”

Misbah said if there are issues with Khan or any other players, they will be referred to the coaches at National High Performance Centre in Lahore.

Khan and Mohammad Amir were reintegrated to the national team after being found guilty of involvement in spot-fixing scandals. However, Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif haven’t returned to the squad despite serving their punishments from a 2010 spot-fixing scandal in which Amir was also involved.

Misbah said he can’t stop re-selection of tainted players.

“There’s a law that allows players to play after serving punishment,” he said. “I don’t know why others didn’t get picked. If there was such a law that said you can’t pick a tainted player, then it would be clear, but if they can play then why not.”

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