Pakistan skipper Babar Azam has been ruled out of the first Test against New Zealand. The 26-year-old is still recovering from a thumb fracture he sustained during a practice session. He was earlier ruled out of the 3-match T20I series in which Pakistan have now conceded a 2-0 lead.
In Babar Azam's absence, 28-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan will lead the side for the first time. Rizwan was also the team's vice-captain for the tour. Napier will host the first Test of the 2-match series starting December 26.
In another blow, opener Imam-ul-Haq has also failed to recover from his thumb fracture. The southpaw will also not take any part in the Test.
Pakistan have included uncapped Imran Butt in the 17-member squad as a backup. 24-year-old Butt was the top run-scorer in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 934 runs at an average of over 62.
Babar Azam has been Pakistan's highest run-scorer across formats since 2019. It was reported recently that he was given a 12-day rehab and rest schedule to regain fitness before the Test match. However, the batsman wasn't able to hold a bat properly.
He and Imam-ul-Haq were supposed to have scans on their injuries on Monday, and these have come out less than encouraging. The decision on the duo's selection for the 2nd Test that starts on January 3 will be notified at a later date.
Hard on the team to play Babar Azam without any net sessions: Misbah-ul-Haq
Pakistan Head Coach Misbah-ul-Haq said that it would be 'hard' on Babar Azam and the Pakistan team if the batsman is played without any net sessions. He, however, remained confident that the rest of the players will stand up and take responsibility.
"Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar's injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions," Misbah-ul-Haq said in a statement on Monday.
"I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and use the opportunity to rise to the occasion and put the disappointment of the T20I series behind them."
9-Test experienced Rizwan will have his task cut out without his team's finest batsman. He will require as much support as possible from Azhar Ali and Yasir Shah if Pakistan have to start on a winning note against a formidable opponent.Published 21 Dec 2020, 12:28 IST