The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday announced a 20-member squad for the Test series against South Africa including 9 uncapped players.
The two-Test series against South Africa starts on January 26 in Karachi.
The squad also includes nine uncapped players who have been picked up for their “stellar performances” in domestic cricket.
“Openers Abdullah Shafique and Imran Butt, middle-order batsmen Kamran Ghulam, Salman Ali Agha and Saud Shakeel, spinners Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan, and fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Tabish Khan have been rewarded for their stellar performances in the 2020-21 domestic season, including the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy,” the PCB press statement read.
“This is a reward for their consistent performance, hard work, and perseverance during a difficult season played under the strict Covid-19 protocols,” PCB Chief Executive Officer Wasim Khan was quoted as saying.
“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 on the global stage will not only have to feature in it but also perform at the expected levels to earn the selectors’ nod.”
I want to congratulate all the uncapped players who have made it to the 20-player Pakistan Test squad: Chief selector @MuhammadWasim77— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) January 15, 2021
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PCB Chief Selector Muhammad Wasim at a press conference in Karachi on Friday said the nine players have an outstanding opportunity to step-up show their class and potential and perform strongly so that they can cement their places for future international assignments.
“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 on the global stage will not only have to feature in it but also perform at the expected levels to earn the selectors’ nod,” he added.
At the same time he also encouraged players who did not make the squad to retain focus as the PCB looks for a packed 2021. “I will like to see these players continue to focus on their fitness and form even after the curtain falls on the 2020-21 season so that whenever they get a call-up, they are ready to cash in on the opportunity.”
“Haris, Abbas, and Shan have been dropped due to inconsistent performances”, he said adding that the PCB “will not let its investment in these talented players go to waste” and has invited them to train at High-Performance Centre in Lahore.
“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.”
He further added that 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 further healthy competition for a permanent place in the side.”
“The horses for courses policy means performers like left-arm spinner Nauman Ali, off-spinner Sajid Shah, and fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Tabish Khan will be available for selection, depending on the team composition for the first Test against South Africa in Pakistan in 14 years.
“Wrist spinner Zahid Mahmood had a strong case after an excellent season, but we decided against going into the series with all four inexperienced spinners,” said the chief selector.
“Yasir Shah understands the pressures of international cricket and is familiar with the demands, challenges, and expectations of the purest format of the game.”
“Tabish Khan has been preferred over Sohail Khan as he is more effective and useful in Pakistan conditions. Like Mohammad Abbas, Tabish is a workhorse, who can bowl long spells with controlled line and length. His 598 career first-class wickets, including 30 wickets this season, is a testament that he is a like-to-like replacement for Mohammad Abbas in the given conditions.”
“Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Nawaz are two all-rounders of contrasting skills and should provide more selection options to the team management.”