Babar Azam, the middle-order batsman, and Mohammd Nawaz, the left-arm spinner, have earned maiden Test call-ups for the first of Pakistan’s upcoming three-match series against West Indies in the UAE. Incidentally, the Dubai Test will be the first pink-ball Test for both the teams, and only the second overall.
Azam shattered many records as he notched up three consecutive centuries in the preceding One-Day International series against the visitors which Pakistan swept 3-0. The 21-year-old Azam, who averages over 52 from 18 ODIs, has featured in 26 first class games, during which he’s accumulated 1522 runs at an average of 41.13 including two hundreds and nine fifties.
Out of the players who visited England for the four-match Test series, Ifitkhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood have been left out of the 14-member squad for the series opener in Dubai. With the team management selecting only five specialist batsmen in Asad Shafiq, Sami Aslam, Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali and Azam, the hosts could go into the first Test with Nawaz as the all-rounder batting at No. 7, behind wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed.
The 22-year-old Nawaz, who was one of the finds of the inaugural season of the Pakistan Super League, has 1440 runs and 44 wickets from 29 first class games. With the squad already featuring another left-arm spinner in Zulfiqar Babar and the pink ball’s propensity to swing around in the twilight, captain Misbah could also consider fielding five specialist bowlers.
“We have been searching for one who can bat in the lower order and bowl as well. And if you look at Nawaz, he has got a good first-class record. It shows he has been promising with the bat and has competed as a bowler,” chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said.
The squad. however, features only one specialist opener in Aslam. With the selectors opting to ignore Mohammad Hafeez, who made a duck for the PCB Patrons XI against the visiting West Indians in the warm-up game, Azhar Ali is likely to reprise his role at the top of the order, as he did in the Oval Test against England.
‘See this is our home series and if we need anyone we can bring them over,” Inzamam said. “And if you recall, in the England series, it was Azhar who opened the innings so it’s fine. He knows he will open again.”
Younis Khan, on the other hand, is recovering from dengue fever and has already been ruled out of Pakistan’s maiden day-night Test.
Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Imran Khan, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Sami Aslam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Babar Azam, Mohammad Nawaz