Pakistan men’s national team manager Wahab Riaz has rubbished the rumours of rift between star players Shaheen Shah Afridi and Babar Azam after the latter was handed back the T20I captaincy following the pacer’s brief stint as skipper during T20I series in New Zealand back in January. Shaheen was given the T20I leadership following Pakistan’s underwhelming performance in the ICC Cricket World Cup held in India back last year, in which they finished fifth after winning just four matches out of nine. This appointment was made keeping in mind the ICC T20 World Cup, starting this year from June 1 in the West Indies/USA.

But during his first assignment as captain, Shaheen suffered a 1-4 loss to the Kiwis away from home. A disastrous bottom-place finish in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) with Lahore Qalandars following two title wins in 2022, and 2023 raised questions over Shaheen’s leadership and he was removed in favour of Babar.

Amidst all the chaos around the leadership, there were media reports of Shaheen being unhappy about the unceremonious manner of his removal from captaincy. The reports gained even more fire because of some cryptic social media posts by Shaheen.

However, after the announcement of the squad for the T20I series against New Zealand starting from April 18 at home, Riaz clarified that all the rumours around Shaheen and Babar are not true.

“There is so much speculation (in Pakistan)… we really are the ones ruining our environment. Until things were not clear, media and social media were so active that it felt if we had not gone to Kakul (fitness camp), they might have just hit each other,” said Riaz as quoted by Wisden.

“When we actually went, we saw an atmosphere as friendly as we could have seen. The boys were united. After their training and iftar, they would head to the snooker room or watch TV together. It was a really good atmosphere,” he added.

Wahan urged the media not to spread rumours and asserted that the team was more united than it ever was.

“We need to confirm the truth behind such news before breaking it,” he said.

“These are Pakistan players who want to represent their country, and that is their collective goal, and they are united because of that, and will be. The players you talk about will win Pakistan games in the future,” he added.

Pakistan squad for the five-match T20I series: Babar Azam (c), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Usama Mir, Usman Khan and Zaman Khan.

Non-travelling reserves: Haseebullah Khan, Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Sahibzada Farhan and Salman Ali Agha.

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