The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday announced a 20-member squad for the two-Test home series against South Africa. Pakistan’s new chief selector Muhammad Wasim made some massive changes in the team from the New Zealand tour where they suffered massive 2-0 defeat.Also Read - Australia to Tour Pakistan With a Full-Strength Squad, Says George Bailey
Wasim dropped six players including Shan Masood, Haris Sohail and Imam-ul-Haq. Captain Babar Azam, who sustained a thumb fracture during New Zealand tour returned to the Pakistan team. Also Read - My Performance In T20 WC Win Against India Was Most Memorable: Shaheen Shah Afridi
PCB decided to bring some domestic talents in the team and included several top performers from the circuit which also include nine uncapped players in the squad, which will be trimmed to 16 players ahead of the first Test. Also Read - Pakistan Pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi Named ICC Men's Cricketer of The Year For 2021
Top scoring batsmen Saud Shakeel, Kamran Ghulam, allrounder Agha Salman, left-arm spinner Nauman Ali, off-spinner Sajid Khan and fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Tabish Khan — all got call-ups for the series beginning on January 26 at the National Stadium here.
The selectors also upgraded young batsman Abdullah Shafique to the Test squad although he was selected for the New Zealand tour as a specialist T20 player and failed in his two outings.
Haris Rauf, who emerged as a T20 specialist in the past couple of years, also included in the squad for the two-match Test series.
While young fast bowling sensation Naseem Shah also missed out his place in the team after sustaining an injury.
About the ouster of left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar, Wasim said the selectors had gone for specialist spinners in Nauman and Sajid Khan keeping in mind it was a home series.
Other players dropped from NZ tour include experienced pacers, Muhammad Abbas and Sohail Khan.
Saud Shakeel, Kamran Ghulam, Agha Salman, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Tabish Khan, Haris Rauf and Imran Butt are yet to play Tests for Pakistan.
PCB chief selector Wasim said he wants to develop more players like Babar Azam who can play in any conditions.
“Ideally we would like to have players who can adapt to all conditions like Babar Azam but we need time for that. But we want to develop players who can play in any conditions,” he said.
Wasim also said that Haris Rauf had been inducted into the Test squad because the selectors felt that the bowling attack lacked aggression in New Zealand and he would bring that element to the pace attack.
Wasim also said that the selectors had done their best to acknowledge the top performers of the domestic season.
“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.
“Even the players who have been dropped will not go out of the system and will be closely monitored.”
Pakistan Test squad for SA series: Babar Azam (C), Muhammad Rizwan (VC), Imran Butt, Abdullah Shafique, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Kamran Ghulam, Agha Salman, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tabish Khan, Haris Rauf, Sajid Khan, Nauman Ali, Yasir Shah. Faheem Ashraf, Muhammad Nawaz.
The South African team will reach Karachi on Saturday.
(With PTI Inputs)