Babar Azam’s three successive ODI centuries against the West Indies in the recently-concluded ODI series have earned him his maiden Test call-up for the first Test of the three-match Test series against the Caribbeans, the first Test of which begins on October 13 in Dubai. Azam, 21, had created a new world record for scoring most runs in a three-match ODI series when he scored 360 runs that helped Pakistan clean sweep the Windies 3-0.
Another notable inclusion has been that of another 21-year-old, Mohammad Nawaz, a batting all-rounder, for whom it is also a maiden Test call-up.
Veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez, opening batsman Shan Masood, all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed, and wicketkeeper-batsman Mohamad Nawaz have been left out of the 14-man squad selected for the 1st Test, which would also be a Day-Night affair – a first in Pakistan’s Test history – and would be played with the pink ball.
Younus Khan, who is yet to recover from dengue, had already been ruled out of the fixture. Misbah-ul-Haq would lead the side and would be bearing a larger burden of run-scoring in the absence of his senior pro, Younus.
Only five specialist batsmen
Interestingly, the squad contains only fine specialist batsmen – Azam, Misbah, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Sami Aslam – which means that Pakistan may play Sarfraz Ahmed at No. 6 and make way for an all-rounder, most preferably Mohammad Nawaz, along with the four bowlers.
The Asian giants, who until recently were the No. 1 ranked Test side in the world, before India dethroned them from that position, had drawn their previous Test series against England in the United Kingdom 2-2.
The victory in the fourth Test at the Oval had escalated them past their geographical neighbours, India, who themselves would have remained the No. 1 side had they won the 4th Test against the West Indies in Port of Spain back in August.
That match was abandoned due to a wet outfield, and it resulted in Pakistan overtaking their arch-rivals (who do not play each other anymore). Misbah-ul-Haq was presented with the Test Championship mace at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore.
Azam, the latest Pakistani batting sensation has accumulated 656 runs in ODI cricket in 11 innings this year at an average of 59 and an impressive strike-rate of 95. His records in first-class cricket aren’t ordinary either, as he has 1522 runs to his name from 41 innings at 41.13.
On the other hand, the selectors have finally run out of patience with Mohammad Hafeez, who had a terrible outing in England, managing just 102 runs from six innings, before being dropped from the XI for the final Test at the Oval. His short-time opening partner, Shan Masood, has also been served with a similar treatment.
The rest of the squad has pretty much remained unchanged with bowlers like Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan and Mohammad Amir retaining their places in the squad.
The Squad (For the first Test)
Misbah-ul-Haq (C), Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Sami Aslam, Sarfraz Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Imran Khan, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Imran Khan.