Fakhar Zaman will miss Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand, with the Pakistan batsman dropped from the touring party as a precautionary measure after developing potential Covid-19 symptoms. The PCB announced in a press release that Zaman had tested negative as recently as Saturday, but after developing a fever while isolating with the rest of the team at a hotel in Lahore, he was left out as a precautionary measure.
“Fakhar’s Covid test report was received on Saturday which came out negative but today he picked up fever. As soon as his condition was reported, he was isolated from the rest of the squad in the team hotel. We are constantly monitoring his condition and remain hopeful of his quick recovery; however he is not fit to travel with the squad and as such has been withdrawn from the touring party,” Pakistan team doctor Sohail Saleem said.
The practical implication of Zaman’s absence means Pakistan will need a replacement at the top of the order for the three T20Is they are scheduled to play against New Zealand; the left-handed opener is not currently a contender for a Test slot. Zaman’s international form, particularly in the shortest format, has been something of a lingering concern for Pakistan; he has scored more than 25 runs in an innings only once for more than two years.
In the recent T20I series against Zimbabwe, where most of Pakistan’s batsmen made hay chasing low targets against bowling opposition that was, by international standards, less than intimidating, he managed 45 runs at an average of 15. His form in domestic T20 competitions has been vastly more impressive, he was the top scorer in the National T20 Cup, and the second highest scorer in this year’s PSL.
ESPNcricinfo understands there is no chance of the player linking up with the team at a later date due to the stringent quarantine measures the touring party will need to observe upon touching down in New Zealand. They tourist will be isolated in separate rooms, not permitted to mix with each other for the fortnight to be spent in quarantine. They will be tested on the third and twelfth days of isolation. Once they return negative tests, they will not need to form a bio-secure bubble within the country, given the near-total absence of community transmission of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
Pakistan will not name a replacement for Zaman. Abdullah Shafique and Haider Ali, both of whom batted in the top order at some point during the T20I series against Zimbabwe, are likely to be frontrunners to partner captain Babar Azam at the top.