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Pakistan ‘A’, aka Pakistan Shaheens, is a name familiar to old cricket followers of Pakistan, but it seems a new word for those who started watching cricket after the 2010s. For newbies, Pakistan ‘A’ cricket team was founded in 1964 when they played a 3-day practice game against Ceylon (Sri Lanka) board President XI in Colombo. The team then didn’t get a single game till 1991, and a tour was also cancelled in this period due to the Gulf War
‘A’ team, a pathway for the national call-up
Pakistan Shaheens has always played a pivotal role in the player’s journey to a national selection but since the rise of the Pakistan super league, the ‘A’ side has been neglected by the selection committees.
In 2017, when the dream run of Pakistan in the Champions Trophy started, a product of Pakistan’s A team made it to the national side and the world called him ‘Fakhar e Pakistan’ as he made Pakistan proud on the international stage when he was replaced with an injured Ahmad Shehzad in the match against South Africa after Pakistan experienced a humiliating loss against India in their opener of the tournament.
Apart from Fakhar, many players, including Former No. 1 T20 player Muhammad Rizwan and Abid Ali who was termed as ‘Neil Armstrong of Cricket’ by Present PCB chief Ramiz Raja while commentating in a Pakistan-Australia ODI match in Dubai in 2018.
Also read: Shadab Khan – The X-Factor of Pakistan
Present Setup of Pakistan ‘A’ (Shaheens) and Recent Assignments
Pakistan Shaheens are currently led by ODI cap no. 231 Saud Shakeel, who for now is also seen as a permanent squad member of the Pakistan national side. The side is coached by Pakistan’s legendary cricketer Ijaz Ahmad. The team last featured in an assignment in 2021 when the squad went to Sri Lanka to play a full bilateral series and was expected to play England Lions in September Last year but a fake security alert caused the cancellation of the English lions and England national side.
Pakistan Shaheens also played a practice game against the Pakistan National team when they were Netherlands-bound earlier this year in July but that match was not in relevance with the List A records.
Why Pakistan Shaheens’ side is not given importance by PCB?
Pakistan Shaheens or Pakistan A side used to play as a side team when the teams used to visit Pakistan for their tours, and hence that gave them enough amount of cricket. This, however, saw a halt when the 2009 incident closed the doors of International cricket in Pakistan.
Since the revival of cricket in Pakistan, PSL is the only thing that is darling to the board, most probably due to its revenue generation and its main role in bringing cricket home.
What should PCB do for the Shaheens’ XI?
In the money-making process, Pakistan should also look into making the roots of cricket strong in the country by providing the chance to Pakistan A cricket team to prove themselves in the field against all the touring parties which come to play in Pakistan, especially the SENA nations. This will help players to increase their confidence and prepare themselves for tough matches and playing conditions.
Even if this seems an issue citing the security arrangements of the visiting teams, PCB can arrange a yearly tri-series of Pakistan Shaheens with the Pakistan national team and the winner of the Quaid e Azam Trophy, giving those matches List A status so that those can go in the record books, this will develop the public interest and will also provide PCB with good revenue considering its short duration.