Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Saad Ali, Faheem Ashraf and Usman Sallahuddin were all named in Pakistan’s 16-man Test squad for their tour of Ireland and England. None of the five have played a Test match yet.
Pakistan will play a one-off Test against Ireland from May 11 before travelling to England for two matches. Pakistan’s last Test series was against Sri Lanka in October 2017. Bilal Asif, Mohammad Asghar, Shan Masood and Wahab Riaz have been dropped from that squad, while Yasir Shah has been ruled out of action for ten weeks after suffering a stress fracture on his hip, which needs extensive rehabilitation.
Yasir’s absence gives Shadab Khan, who will 20 later this year, the opportunity to be the team’s lead spinner. Shadab, who has so far played one Test, has established his credentials as a white-ball bowler. He was one of the finds of the last English summer when Pakistan beat India in the final of the Champions Trophy, and has so far picked up 48 wickets in 33 matches across One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals.
The Inzamam-ul-Haq-led selection committee has rewarded other white ball performers in Zaman and Ashraf.
Zaman, who scored a century in that Champions Trophy final, has been consistent since then with an average of 45.83 in 13 ODIs. He also scored 85 runs in three T20Is at home against Windies recently.
Ashraf has been another among the younger players to have made a mark in recent times. Known for his hard-hitting abilities, he is a medium pacer who was economical in all three T20Is against Windies.
Imam, on the other hand, has played just four ODIs, and has not had a great domestic season.
The exclusion of Wahab Riaz, a regular feature in Pakistan’s side over the last few years, does not come as a surprise. He was a key member of the squad that drew the Test series 2-2 in England in 2016. But Mickey Arthur, the head coach, had recently made his displeasure regarding Riaz known. He felt that Riaz needed to be more disciplined and professional in his approach.
Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Sami Aslam, Imam ul Haq, Babar Azam, Usman Sallahuddin, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Rahat Ali, Saad Ali, Faheem Ashraf.