Five new players in team for Lanka tour

LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Saturday included five new players in the 16-member Test squad for the two-match home series against Sri Lanka in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), commencing later this month.

Batsmen Haris Sohail and Usman Salahuddin though have played One-day Internationals (ODIs) for the national team, yet they have to make their Test debuts as the green caps will play this series

without retired batting greats Misbah-ul Haq and Younus Khan, who retired from international cricket in the last Test series against the West Indies in May.

Opener Sami Aslam, who last played a Test for Pakistan in December, was also recalled. Left-arm fast bowler Mir Hamza, 25, was picked for his strong domestic form, having claimed 216 wickets in 46 first-class matches. Spin-bowling all-rounder Bilal Asif and left-arm M Asghar were the other players in the squad yet to play in Tests.

Talking to reporters after announcing the Test squad, chief selector Inzamam-ul Haq said here that Younus and Misbah were great players and it would take some time to replace them in the batting order but this was a phase that all teams faced and moved ahead.

“We are providing maximum opportunities to our promising youngsters and that’s why we have given chance to Usman Salahuddin and Haris Sohail in the Test squad. I wanted to give them an opportunity in home conditions to boost their confidence. We are hopeful they can fulfill the spots left by the retirements.”

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah and top-order batsman Azhar Ali have both battled recent injuries but were declared fit and named in the squad. “Yasir was supposed to undergo a fitness test but he had pulled a calf muscle,” Inzamam said. “He’s taken the Test this morning and been passed fit.”

Inzamam said Yasir Shah was told in clear terms that he would not be selected if he didn’t pass the final fitness test. “Yasir has been our main bowler for the way he has taken wickets consistently, but he needed to maintain a fitness standard and was told he had to pass the test and he did to get a place in the squad,” the chief selector said.

About Azhar Ali, the former captain said: “Azhar has a cyst in his knee and the doctors have advised him to play after taking an injection.

He isn’t experiencing any pain, so we’re hoping he’ll remain fit to play.”

The series, played in the UAE due to security concerns, will start with the first Test in Abu Dhabi from Thursday followed by Sri Lanka’s maiden day-night Test in Dubai from October 6. The two teams will also play five One-day Internationals and three Twenty20 matches, the last of which will be played on home soil in Lahore on October 29, subject to security clearance.

Inzamam said usually UAE has batting pitches and it was not easy bowling out a side twice in a Test match. “And the weather is also pretty hot that is why we have decided to take a strong bowling line-up. We might even rotate our pace bowlers,” he added.

The former captain said Ahmed Shehzad was not considered for the Tests as the selectors wanted to give exposure to the youngsters, who had been with the team on recent tours but didn’t get a chance to play.

Test squad: Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Sarfraz Ahmed (Capt, wk), M Aamir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, M Abbas, Mir Hamza, Yasir Shah, Bilal Asif, M Asghar.