Babar Azam Ruled Out Of 1st New Zealand Test, Mohammad Rizwan To Lead Pakistan
Pakistan captain Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq have been ruled out of the first Test of the two-match series against New Zealand starting Saturday, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced on Monday. In Babar's absence, Mohammad Rizwan will captain the Pakistan side at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
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.
Decision on their participation in the second Test, which commences in Christchurch from January 3, will be made closer to the time, a PCB statement read.
Pakistan have already lost the ongoing three-match T20I series with a game left to be played on Tuesday.
"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," said Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq.
Meanwhile, the PCB selection committee has named prolific domestic run-scorer Imran Butt in the 17-player Test squad.
24-year-old Imran 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.
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 BBL, while Mohammad Hafeez will return to Pakistan.
"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 term of player confidences and team results as 2021 will not be any easier as we have two major events," said Misbah.
"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," he added.
Pakistan Test squad: 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)