In a rather surprising development, Pakistan have selected opening batsman Sharjeel Khan for the upcoming 2-Test series in New Zealand. The attacking left-hander has been called up to the Test squad for the first time in his career while Mohammad Rizwan found a place as well.
However, 37-year old left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar has been left out due to the likelihood of facing seam-friendly pitches in New Zealand. Aside from these couple of changes, the rest of the squad which is currently in the midst of a Test series against West Indies in UAE does not see any other modifications.
Insisting that the 16-man squad should cover all bases, Chief Selector and former skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq said, “The Test team has been selected keeping in mind the conditions in New Zealand and the recent performances of players in the recent Test series against England and West Indies.”
“The team is a fine blend of experience and youth, and the selectors have stick to the same combination of players selected against England and West Indies series earlier and believe that team will do well in the tour,” he added.
Finding a stabilized opening pair has been among the area of concerns for Pakistan. Even though Sami Aslam has emerged as a dependable batsman at the top of the order, lack of viable options have forced the team management to promote Azhar Ali, who usually bats at three, to partner the sturdy southpaw. With Sharjeel in the mix, it remains to be seen if the move is targeted at bringing Ali back at his preferred position or to provide a back-up option to face the new ball.
Either way, the 27-year old's selection could also be perceived as a calculated gamble on conditions conducive for swing. Rapidly establishing himself as an integral part of the limited-overs sides, Sharjeel‘s role might be to attack the new ball and get his team off to fliers by putting the New Zealand seamers under pressure. On the other hand, Rizwan also doubles up as a back-up wicket keeper apart from being a middle-order alternative.
The pace department features as many as five options with three left-armers in them. Mohammad Nawaz, who made his debut in the day-night Test against West Indies at Dubai, is the only all rounder in the squad.
Hagley Oval at Christchurch plays host to the first Test of the series from November 17th while the second match is scheduled to be held from the 25th at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
Pakistan squad for New Zealand Tests: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam, Sharjeel Khan, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan and Imran Khan