Ahmed defends Pakistan squad as 'best of the best'

Pakistan's skipper Sarfraz Ahmed speaks during a press conference in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, April 21, 2018. Ahmed believes "best of the best" 16 players for the test tours of Ireland and England have been picked after former test cricketers have criticized the non-selection of middle-order batsman Fawad Alam. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has defended the 16-man national squad for tours of Ireland and England as the "best of the best" despite criticism over the omission of batsman Fawad Alam

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has defended the 16-man national squad for tours of Ireland and England as the "best of the best" despite criticism over the omission of batsman Fawad Alam.

"It's not like I voted him (Alam) out," Ahmed said on the last day of Pakistan's training camp in Lahore on Saturday, adding that "I would have picked all the 25 ... but we had to pick the best of the best 16 players."

Wasim Akram was among several former Pakistan test players who have criticized selectors for ignoring Alam in the middle order — especially since Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have now retired.

Alam was among 25 players called up for the camp after scoring consistently on the domestic circuit, but he failed to make the final squad.

Former test opener Ramiz Raja claimed there were flaws in Alam's batting technique and that he would not have considered the left-hander, considering the tough conditions in England.

Ahmed played down the dispute.

"People can make as much reasons to talk, but there is nothing like flaws in anyone's batting technique," Ahmed said. "If you look back, Fawad had played a test in 2009 and he is a seasoned player ... (but) the players we selected are also equally good and have been scoring continuously as well."

Ahmed said it had been a "unanimous decision" by coach, captain and selectors.

Pakistan has included uncapped batsmen Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali in the final 16, as well as Fakhar Zaman, who has done well in limited-overs cricket but is yet to play a test match.

Misbah and Younis will be missed on a tour of England where Misbah scored a century at Lord's in 2016 and Younis made 218 at The Oval in the fourth test to draw the series 2-2.

Pakistan has two four-day matches against Kent and Northamptonshire before meeting Ireland in a one-off test at Dublin, starting May 11. It plays two tests against England, starting May 24.

Pakistan will also play Scotland on June 12-13 in two Twenty20 internationals.

Pakistan faced a major blow when its premier legspinner Yasir Shah was ruled out due to injury. However, Ahmed said he wasn't sure that Shadab Khan, who has played just one test match, would make it to the final team with the English conditions more suitable for pace.

"The weather will be much cooler and I am not even sure if we are going to play a spinner," Ahmed said.

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