Pakistan has named nine uncapped players for the two-match home test series against South Africa that starts later this month.
New chief selector Mohammad Wasim said Friday that he wanted to reward rookie players like batsman Kamran Ghulam and fast bowler Tabish Khan for their consistent performances in domestic cricket.
Ghulam topped the scoring chart in this season’s premier first class tournament by scoring 1,249 runs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
The 36-year-old Khan made his first-class debut in the 2002-03 season and has taken 598 wickets including 30 this season.
Khan is expected to replace fast bowler Mohammad Abbas, who has been dropped after a sharp decline in his wicket taking ability that saw him picking only 25 wickets in his last 13 test matches.
“Tabish Khan is more effective and useful in Pakistan conditions,” Wasim said. “Tabish is a workhorse who can bowl long spells with controlled line and length. He is a like-to-like replacement for Mohammad Abbas in the given conditions.”
The selectors have also dropped opening batsman Shan Masood and middle-order batsman Haris Sohail after Pakistan was routed 2-0 by New Zealand in the test series with regular skipper Babar Azam missing the entire series due to a fractured thumb.
Azam has recovered and will lead the side against South Africa.
Young fast bowler Naseem Shah, opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq and allrounder Shadab Khan were not considered for the series because of injuries.
“Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Shan Masood have been dropped due to inconsistent performances,” Wasim said. “Shan’s bad form has opened doors for Abid Ali’s new partner, be it either Abdullah Shafique or Imran Butt, who was last (domestic) season’s top scorer. Together with Abdullah, he was in New Zealand with the Shaheens side.”
Fast bowler Hasan Ali has regained fitness from his back problem and returns two years after last playing a test match against South Africa in 2019. Ali impressed selectors with his stellar performance this season in domestic cricket where he took 43 wickets and also scored 273 runs.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said that all 20 players now move into a bio-secure bubble in Karachi, which hosts the first test from Jan. 26.
Rawalpindi will host the second test from Feb. 4-8, followed by a three-match Twenty20 series in Lahore. The squad for the Twenty20 series will be named later.
Wasim said the squad will be trimmed to 16 players, according to his policy of ‘horses for courses’ close to the first test.
Abid Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Kamran Ghulam, Salman Ali Agha, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Tabish Khan.