Sarfaraz Ahmed feels he can thrive without the pressure of being captain after earning a Pakistan recall for the tour of England.

The wicketkeeper-batsman has not played for his country since he was axed as skipper last October.

Yet Sarfaraz was this week included in a 29-man squad for three Tests and as many Twenty20 Internationals against England in August and September.

And the 33-year-old, who is back-up to Mohammad Rizwan, is relishing being able to concentrate on his own game without the extra responsibility.

"Obviously it was tough to absorb the fact that I was the captain as well as a regular member and then suddenly, I am nowhere," said Sarfaraz.

"You do get upset but I couldn't really dwell on it too much, because I was fortunate that I had domestic cricket there and then came PSL. So, most of the time, I remained busy.

"Then in this free time in the last three months in quarantine, I got time to reflect and improve my fitness to be ready for any opportunity.

"When you are captain in any format, it definitely brings a lot of pressure on you and this is why it's a big responsibility. When you were playing cricket non-stop without a break, relentlessly, then these breaks really help you.

"I've been talking to Misbah [ul-Haq, the Pakistan head coach] and he was urging me to utilise this time to work smartly to improve my fitness and reflect on what I have been doing wrong.

"When you are captain you basically think differently - more about the team than yourself. Your main focus is on the team result and performances, and in all this you spent more time supporting your players.

"But now I don't have that added responsibility and I will be thinking exclusively how I can play my part as a player in any situation where I am needed.

"Overall, I realised that this seven or eight-month gap away from the national team has helped me rediscover myself as player."

Pakistan's squad has had a major shake-up for the upcoming tour of Australia, with five uncapped players named across the Test and Twenty20 parties.

Sarfraz Ahmed was sacked as Pakistan's captain on Friday, with the wicket-keeper batsman also dropped from the squad following a dismal 3-0 T20 series defeat to Sri Lanka.

Azhar Ali has taken over as the Test captain and will have teenage seamer Muhammad Musa Khan, who has been included in both touring selections, at his disposal.

Experienced spinner Kashif Bhatti will also be available for Azhar, as will youngster Nasim Shah.

Khushdil Shah and leg-spinner Usman Qadir, meanwhile, have been included in the T20 squad, which will be led by Babar Azam.

Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, the injured Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Mohammad Amir, who announced his retirement from Test cricket earlier in 2019, have all dropped out of the five-day squad, while Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal miss out on the T20 group.

Pakistan will play three T20Is and two Tests in Australia, with the tour beginning on November 3.

 

Pakistan T20 squad in full: Babar Azam (captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz.

Pakistan Test squad in full: Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Nasim Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.

Sarfraz Ahmed has been sacked as Pakistan's Test and Twenty20 captain, also losing his place in the squad for both formats.

Pakistan have endured a difficult 2019, with a poor start to the Cricket World Cup group stage meaning a late charge was not enough to secure their place in the semi-finals.

Sarfraz's sacking comes in the wake of a 3-0 T20 defeat to Sri Lanka, as the world's top-ranked side in the shortest format succumbed to a series whitewash.

While a decision on the captaincy for the 50-over format has been put on hold for now, Sarfraz – who retained his position last month despite his performances coming under scrutiny – has been removed as the team's skipper ahead of their Test and T20 tour of Australia, which starts in November.

Azhar Ali – who was white-ball captain prior to Sarfraz – will replace the wicketkeeper-batsman as Test skipper, while Babar Azam will take charge of the T20 side until the 2020 World Cup.

In a statement released by the Pakistan Cricket Board, Azhar said: "There is no bigger honour than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game.

"I feel humbled, excited and privileged, and with the support of the team, look forward to justifying the faith that has been entrusted upon me for the World Test Championship.

"Sarfraz has done an excellent job in transforming raw talent into experienced players, and I now look forward to inspiring those skilful players.

"These are exciting times in Pakistan cricket with a new team management."

Pakistan dismissed their head coach and chief selector following the World Cup, with Misbah-ul-Haq taking over both positions.

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