Karachi: Pakistan suffered a major blow even before the Pakistan team could leave for the World Cup as experienced pacer Junaid Khan was replaced by allrounder Bilawal Bhatti in the 15-member squad.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said that Junaid had still not made a full recovery from a hamstring injury he picked up during a short conditioning camp in Lahore last week for the World Cup squad and will not be leaving with the team tonight.
"Junaid has been replaced by Bilawal who will be playing the two one-day internationals and two warm up games in New Zealand prior to the World Cup," a board official told PTI.
"If Junaid recovers from his injury than he will be joining the team before the World Cup," the official added. There have been growing fears that some players of the selected World Cup squad are not 100 per cent fit including captain, Misbah-ul-Haq and the selectors might be forced to announce a few replacements in the squad before the start of the mega-event. He said that chief selector, Moin Khan had discussed the issue with Chairman, Shaharyar Khan and Junaid remained the first choice to play the World Cup which begins from Feb 14.
Pakistan's two ODIs in New Zealand are scheduled on Jan 31st and Feb 3rd. Bilawal, 23, has played just two Tests and eight one-day internationals but was overlooked for the final 15-member World Cup squad.
Junaid made a successful comeback to domestic cricket in the recent Pentangular Cup one-day tournament earlier this month after being out of action since last September.
Junaid, one of Pakistan's most successful pacers in recent times, had to return home from the UAE in September when he hurt his knee in a practice session prior to the one-day series against Australia.