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Pakistan selectors in dilemma over selection of World Cup squad

Karachi: Pakistan national cricket team selectors are in a dilemma over the selection of the final 15-member squad for the World Cup, which is scheduled to be announced on January 7 in Karachi.

Their indecisiveness stems from the recent chain of events affecting key players in recent months and now in the ongoing Pentangular Cup one-day tournament in Karachi.

"The main dilemma is whether to go back and repose confidence in some senior players or not, whether to take a chance with the fitness of pacer Umar Gul or select Muhammad Hafeez purely as a batsman if he is not allowed to bowl in international cricket by the ICC," a source close to the selectors said.

Discarded all-rounder and former captain, Shoaib Malik appears to have become the main talking point for the selectors, as after having thrown the gauntlet at them in a press conference, he has responded with two match winning half-centuries and some steady bowling for his Khyber Pakthunkhawa team in the Pentangular Cup.

Malik, before the start of the tournament, made it clear that he was available for the World Cup. But the selectors needed to see what would be his batting position and how many matches they were willing to give him to prove his mettle.

"Not only has he scored runs in the middle order but also bowled well, clearly staking a claim for the key allrounder's spot in the team," the source stated.

With Saeed Ajmal out of the World Cup and with doubts still remaining over whether Hafeez will be cleared to bowl in the World Cup, a source said Malik was close to a dramatic comeback to the team.

"If Hafeez is not cleared to bowl then Malik is the best available choice for the selectors," another source stated.

The selectors are also facing a dilemma over the third opener's slot as the uncapped young wicketkeeper-batsman, Muhammad Rizwan has been in prime form in the domestic season.

Rizwan, 22, hit another ton for KPK in the Pentangular Cup yesterday after scoring 224 runs in the final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy earlier this month.

Although Rizwan toured with the Pakistan team to the West Indies in mid 2013, he has not played any internationals. But his form poses a serious challenge to a comeback attempt by veteran keeper-batsman, Kamran Akmal who has also been in devastating form with the bat in the domestic season.

"It appears to be a direct tie between Rizwan and Kamran for the reserve keeper opener's slot," the source said. The form and fitness of Umar Gul also remains a concern for the selectors as he conceded lot of runs in his first match of the Pentangular and questions remain over his fitness after undergoing a knee operation in May, 2013.

Though Gul has claimed he is now fully fit and is slowly returning to his best, but the source said the selectors still have doubts, especially after the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Shaharyar Khan recently claimed that the medical report on Gul was not very encouraging and he had slim chances of making it to the World Cup squad.

The selectors led by Moin Khan have been closely monitoring all matches of the Pentangular Cup as the event will eventually form the basis for the selection of the final World Cup squad.

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