Pakistan captain Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq have been ruled out of the first Test against New Zealand, starting in Mount Maunganui from December 26, while the tour selection committee has named prolific domestic run-scorer Imran Butt in the 17-player squad. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), in a statement on Monday, said that Babar had fractured his right thumb a day after Imam had fractured his left thumb during training sessions in Queenstown last week. Both are yet to return to nets with the team’s medical staff closely monitoring their progress, PCB said.
“Decision on their participation in the second Test, which commences in Christchurch on 3 January, will be made closer to the time,” the statement read.
In Babar’s absence, Mohammad Rizwan will captain the Pakistan side in the first Test. When he will step out for the toss on Saturday, he will become Pakistan’s 33rd captain to lead the side in the longest format of the game.
The 24-year-old Imran Butt scored 191 runs in the three ongoing four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches before joining the New Zealand-bound tour party. He had topped batting charts in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 934 runs at an average of over 62 with four centuries and three half-centuries.
Also returning to the Pakistan Test side are Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, and Yasir Shah.
They will replace Abdullah Shafiq, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Usman Qadir, and Wahab Riaz who will now join Pakistan Shaheens for five T20 matches against the local and New Zealand XI sides.
PCB also said that Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez will not be in action on the New Zealand tour after the Napier T20I.
Imad will travel to Australia to join Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League, while Mohammad Hafeez will return to Pakistan.
The hosts, New Zealand, have already sealed the three-match T20I series against Pakistan, with the third game set to be played on Tuesday.
Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, in a statement, said: “It is disappointing to lose the T20I series against a well-settled New Zealand side, who utilised their resources and conditions to their advantage.
“We need to up skill and improve our individual and team performances, including in Tuesday’s match, and the sooner we get these sorted the better it will be in terms of player confidence and team results as 2021 will not be any easier as we have two major events.
“Contrary to the T20I side, the Test side appears to be pretty organised and we boast some experienced cricketers, both in batting and bowling departments.
“With some competitive cricket on the tour now under the belt, I am hoping we will be a better outfit in the longer version of the game.
“Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar’s injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions.
“I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and use the opportunity to rise to the occasion and put the disappointment of the T20I series behind them,” he added.
Pakistan squad for Tests: Mohammad Rizwan (captain for 1st Test), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah (Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq not available for first Test)
Pakistan Shaheens for T20s: Rohail Nazir (captain, wicketkeeper), Abdullah Shafiq, Amad Butt, Danish Aziz, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz, Zafar Gohar and Zeeshan Malik
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