In the aftermath of the grim showing in New Zealand, PCB have axed the misfiring trio of Mohammad Abbas, Shan Masood and Haris Sohail for the two-match Test series against South Africa next month. While Haris Rauf has received a surprise call-up, the long-forgotten Hasan Ali has been recalled.
While Pakistan’s injury-marred outing against New Zealand saw quite a few players put their hand up in times of adversity, it also witnessed the fall from grace of multiple veterans, notably the trio of Mohammad Abbas, Shan Masood and Haris Sohail. While Masood and Sohail averaged an appalling 2.50 and 7.00 with the bat, respectively, Abbas endured a torrid time with the ball, averaging 45.00 on wickets that were conducive for seam bowling. The trio, therefore, came under heavy criticism for their no-show, but in what has come as an aggressive yet unprecedented move, the Pakistan selectors have swung the axe on all the three veterans for the South Africa Tests.
The 20-man squad named on Friday was the first assignment of newly-appointed chief selector Mohammad Wasim, who revealed that the experienced trio have been dropped for their ‘inconsistency’.
"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," said chief selector Mohammad Wasim, reported Cricbuzz.
What has come as news arguably more sensational than the axing of the aforementioned trio, however, has been the recall of forgotten pacer Hasan Ali. The 26-year-old pacer, who last played a Test two years ago, impressed with both bat and ball in the 2020/21 Quaid-e-Azam trophy - averaging 20 with the ball and 25 with the bat - and as a result has received a deserved callup. Ali notably was in the headlines recently for his performance in the final of the QeA trophy, where he incredibly struck an unbeaten 106* (61) in the fourth innings to tie the game for his side Central Punjab.
Alongside Ali, Haris Rauf has also received a surprise call-up. Rauf has been a regular in Pakistan’s white-ball sides, but having played just three first-class matches in his career, the 27-year-old’s inclusion comes as a surprise.
Skipper Babar Azam returns to the setup after missing the New Zealand series with a fractured thumb, while the duo of Abid Ali and Fawad Alam also keep their places owing to promising showings in New Zealand. Who will partner Abid, however, still remains a mystery, and Wasim claimed that a spot at the top of the order, in Masood’s absence, is there for the taking.
"Shan'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. Together with Abdullah, he was in New Zealand with the Shaheens side. Kamran Ghulam (1,249 runs), Saud Shakeel (970 runs) and Salman Ali Agha (941 runs) walk into the middle-order to support Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and Fawad Alam. This is a formidable and highly skilled middle-order, which will encourage a further healthy competition for a permanent place in the side."
Pakistan, interestingly, have named as many as nine uncapped players for the two Test series that will commence on January 26 at the National Stadium in Karachi.
Pakistan squad: Abid Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (c), 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 Shah Afridi, Tabish Khan