Pakistan have made a plethora of changes to their Test line-up that recently took on New Zealand in a two-match Test series. An initial squad of 20 members, including 9 uncapped players has been announced for the upcoming South Africa series.
The first Test between Pakistan and South Africa begins on January 26 in Karachi. The opening match will be followed by the second game, scheduled to commence on February 4 in Rawalpindi. The two sides will then face-off in three T20Is in Lahore to close off the tour.
As for the squad, newly-appointed chief selector, Mohammad Wasim, has axed out-of-form Shan Masood and Haris Sohail. Under-performing seamer Mohammad Abbas has also been left out of the preliminary 20-man Pakistan squad.
Since his 156 in the first Test against England last year, Shan Masood has struggled for runs. The southpaw has only 33 runs to his name from his last 8 outings with the bat. With Imam-ul-Haq benched due to a hand injury, uncapped duo Imran Butt and Abdullah Shafique are now the two contenders for one of the two opening slots for Pakistan.
Speaking in a press conference after the squad announcement, Mohammad Wasim stated that Shan Masood's poor run of form has opened the doors for a few others to come into the side.
“Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Shan Masood have been dropped due to inconsistent performances. However, the PCB will not let its investment on these talented players go to waste and will invite them to the High Performance Centre so that they can work out their technical flaws and get back into contention. Shan Masood’s bad form has opened doors for Abid Ali’s new partner, be it either Abdullah Shafique or Imran Butt, who was last season’s top scorer."
Pakistan's all-format skipper, Babar Azam, returns to the side after missing out on the New Zealand tour due to a thumb injury. Another notable return is that of Hasan Ali, who is slotted back into the squad after a terrific Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season.
Notably, Pakistan's decision to overhaul the squad has resulted in a number of domestic performers earning call-ups to the national side. Top-three run-getters from this year's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season - Kamran Ghulam, Saud Shakeel, and Salman Agha are named in the 20-man roster.
As for the bowling unit, the top-two wicket-takers - Sajid Khan and Nauman Ali have been included in the squad.
“This is a reward for their consistent performance, hard work and perseverance during a difficult season played under the strict Covid-19 protocols. This is also an endorsement that domestic cricket will be valued and respected, and will remain a stepping stone for international cricket. All those players who aspire to represent Pakistan at the global stage will not only have to feature in it but also perform at the expected levels to earn the selectors’ nod."
Apart from Imam-ul-Haq, Naseem Shah and Shadab Khan are the two other enforced omissions for Pakistan - both of whom are nursing a groin strain and a hamstring niggle respectively.
Pakistan Test squad against South Africa
Babar Azam (capt), Abid Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Kamran Ghulam, Salman Agha, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Tabish Khan