Pakistan’s Sharjeel Khan – Fitness is not everything, though it is very important

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Facing the media for the first time since his recent selection, Sharjeel spent a lot of time defending himself against insinuations

For most players, a meteoric comeback to the national side four years after a player’s last involvement would be cause for unbridled joy and celebration. But in the case of Sharjeel Khan, things aren’t quite as simple. This was a player who seemed to fill a niche nakedly absent in Pakistan’s T20I set-up about half a decade ago – that of a power-hitter up top – and seemed earmarked for a lucrative career in the T20 game. All of a sudden, then, things imploded, and any hopes of involvement at the highest level seemed remote.

The factors counting against Sharjeel’s inclusion have been numerous, at times overwhelmingly so. He was among a slew of players found guilty of spot fixing in the PSL in 2017, and alongside Khaled Latif, handed the longest sanction: a five-year ban (half of it suspended in the left-hand batsman’s case). Upon expiry of the ban, he returned to fierce criticism from PCB CEO Wasim Khan, not normally known for singling out players, lambasting him for turning up to the PSL unfit. Now that he has finally been selected after he was the top-scorer in the truncated PSL, chief selector Mohammad Wasim’s decision to include him – purportedly in contravention to the wishes of several senior members of the PCB’s management – continues to cause rumblings of discontent.

Facing the media for the first time since he was chosen for the T20I squad that will play a handful of games in South Africa and Zimbabwe, the opener was forced to spend much of it defending himself against insinuations that he was still unfit for international cricket. On more than one occasion, he pointed to the amount of cricket he had played in the last six months, insisting it vindicated him.

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