Pakistan have decided to have a complete overhaul and have included as many as 9 uncapped players in their squad. The home series, which kicks off in Karachi on January 26, also sees several newcomers in the 20-man squad, with Haris Rauf, Imran Butt, Kamran Ghulam and Salman Ali Agha among a slew of players brought into the fold.
Babar Azam has recovered sufficiently to take over the Test captaincy from Mohammad Rizwan, who deputised for the batsman in New Zealand, where Pakistan lost both Test matches. He is set to take charge of the red-ball side for the first time, and has been handed a squad which could feature several first-timers, with new chief selector Mohammad Wasim ringing the changes in the first squad he has been tasked with naming. Regulars like Shan Masood, Haris Sohail and Mohammad Abbas have all been dropped for Pakistan’s two-match Test series against South Africa in a dramatically overhauled squad. Former No.1-ranked ODI bowler in the world, Hasan Ali is back in the Test side after a supremely successful Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season, which ended with him being named player of the tournament. The 26-year-old Central Punjab bowler took more wickets than any other quick all season, with 43 at 20.06 per scalp. After a number of years out of the game with a back injury which still needs careful tending to, Ali has appeared to regain the yard of pace he lost through 2019 and 2020, which resulted in him losing his central contract and dropping out of Pakistan contention completely. Moreover, Pakistan have struggled with runs lower down the order, and Ali’s ability with the bat – he scored a hundred in the final of the QeA Trophy – looks set to count in his favour. Pakistan’s rather young sensation Shadab Khan continues to nurse the groin strain that kept him out of the Test series against New Zealand, while a hamstring niggle has put paid to any chances of Naseem Shah’s involvement. 27-year-old offspinner Sajid Khan gets a call-up to the senior side for the first time after finishing the QeA season as the most prolific wicket-taker, with 67 for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The tour of South Africa comes at a time when head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis find their positions under further scrutiny than at any time since their appointments 18 months ago. Earlier this week, the PCB cricket committee met to analyse the team’s performances, terming them disappointing, and resolved to meet again following the series against South Africa. Significantly, this is the same committee that put an end to Mickey Arthur and Grant Flower’s tenure as head coach and batting coach respectively in 2019