Misbah-ul-Haq has rung in the changes for Pakistan’s upcoming tour of Australia with several new faces being named in both the Test and T20I outfits led by Azhar Ali and Babar Azam respectively.
As expected, there was no place for recently deposed skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in either of the squads with the wicketkeeper batsman’s poor form in recent months costing him dearly.
But while Sarfraz has been shown the door, there are plenty of exciting changes for Pakistan fans to look forward to Down Under.
Here, we give you the lowdown on the rookies named in the touring party.
Muhammad Musa Khan
The 19-year-old is one of three teenagers named in the touring squad by Misbah with the young pacer finding a place in both the Test and T20I outfits.
With his pace reaching the high 140s, Musa impressed in brief patches in the 2019 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The Islamabad United youngster has only recently made the jump to senior first-class cricket with seven appearances for the now defunct Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited.
His economy-rate in his maiden PSL campaign was on the high side at over 10 per cent over but he remains an exciting talent nevertheless with his tall frame and steep bounce.
The 24-year-old middle-order batsman has found a place in the T20I squad for the tour with Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad being shown the door after just one series.
The left-hander was the leading run-scorer for Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the 2018-19 Quaid-e-Azam One-Day Cup and registered a sparkling half-century for Khyber Pakhtunwala in the ongoing National T20 Cup.
That most recent display came at just the right time for Shah with his fifty catching the eye of Misbah. Pakistan have struggled to find a consistent performer down the order and the rookie has the chance to impress in Australia.
Khushdil Shah and Iftikhar Ahmed are the two batsmen who could solve Pakistan's power hitting issues in the near future. Khushdil has hit 79 sixes in 50 overs cricket, most by any batsman in Pakistan since 2016. #PakistanCup— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) April 8, 2019
It has taken the most unusual of routes for Usman Qadir to earn his maiden senior Pakistan call-up with the leg-spinner impressing in the Big Bash League (BBL) for Perth Scorchers to propel himself back into the limelight.
Son of legendary Pakistan spinner Abdul Qadir, Usman was once a promising junior Pakistan cricketer before losing his way. The 26-year-old had even stated his desire to take up Australian citizenship after moving base last year but that won’t be necessary any more with this latest career development.
His action is much a carbon copy of his legendary father and Pakistan will have a gem on their hands if he can replicate even a small percentage of his Abdul’s success.
While there have been plenty of youngsters brought into the Pakistan squad, Kashif Bhatti is one of the exceptions. The veteran left-armed spinner has been rewarded for his years in the domestic circuit with a maiden Test call up.
The 33-year-old has 83 first-class and 95 List A appearances under his belt where he has managed to claim 327 and 146 wickets respectively.
His shock call up is reminiscent of Bilal Asif’s Test debut against Australia last year but Bhatti will hope to have a much longer international career than the now discarded off-spinner. He is the only spinner in the Test squad apart from stalwart Yasir Shah and should get a chance to make his mark.
327 wickets in 83 matches.Bowling Average 22.8.— محمد صائم علی🇵🇰 (@saimali_2001) October 21, 2019
Can bat too.Avg 24.
Very Happy at his selection. pic.twitter.com/GaN7hjesor
The name that has turned most heads out of all the rookies is 16-year-old Naseem Shah who has been named in the Test squad.
Mohammad Amir’s Test retirement and Hassan Ali’s untimely injury have come as a boon for the teen pace sensation who has made only five first-class appearances so far.
Playing at first-class level at his age is an impressive feat but young Nasim has shown he very much belongs at that level with 17 wickets at an average of less than 19.
A Test debut in Australia might be a step too far for the teenager at the moment but he is definitely one for the future.
Seen by many as a future star of Pakistani pace bowling - 17 year old Naseem Shah with match figures of 5/92 in the recent QeA Trophy match for Central Punjab versus Balochistan #Cricket #QEA19 pic.twitter.com/PxjHNTpqtT— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) October 3, 2019
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Pakistan have dropped former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and the experienced duo of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez from the Twenty20 and Test squads for their upcoming tour of Australia.
After the embarrassing loss in the T20I series against a second-string Sri Lankan team at home, Sarfraz, 32, was stripped of his T20I and Test captaincy.
Meanwhile, the exclusion from the T20I squads could mean it is the end of the line for Malik and Hafeez, who have already retired from Test cricket.
The T20I squad, led by Babar Azam, has three new faces in 19-year-old seamer Muhammad Musa Khan, 24-year-old Khushdil Shah and 26-year-old leg-spinner Usman Qadir, the son of the late, great Abdul Qadir.
The lanky 37-year-old Mohammad Irfan, whose last T20I was during the ICC Twenty20 World Cup held in India three years ago, is also part of the squad.
All-rounder Kashif Bhatti and 16-year-old fast bowler Nasim Shah have earned maiden call-ups to the Test squad, which will be captained by Azhar Ali.
Chief Selector & Head Coach Misbah-ul-Haq opening statement from his press conference earlier today at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore announcing the T20I & Test squads for Australia Tour— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) October 21, 2019
Complete press conference: https://t.co/TdnXxGxdjB pic.twitter.com/RYZbQh4z7r
Head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq insisted that playing youngsters would help the team to play an aggressive brand of cricket Down Under, adding that Usman Qadir’s experience of playing in the Big Bash League would come in handy during the tour.
“We need to play aggressive cricket to achieve better results there,” said Misbah. “We have some exciting youngsters in the pace squad who could be surprise packages.”
Pakistan’s fast bowling unit for Tests comprises three teenagers in Musa Khan, Nasim Shah and Shaheen Afridi along with the experienced Mohammad Abbas and Imran Khan. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah and left-arm spinner Bhatti are the only two spinners who made the cut for the Test squad.
Pakistan will play three Twenty20 internationals in Sydney (November 3), Canberra (November 5) and Perth (November 8). The two Tests will be in Brisbane (Nov 21-25) and Adelaide (Nov 29-Dec 03).
Twenty20: Babar Azam (captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khusdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Wahab Riaz, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir
Test: Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan senior, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashid Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Nusa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah
In a major revamp to the Pakistan cricket team, Sarfraz Ahmed has been removed as skipper of the Test and T20I outfits ahead of the upcoming tour of Australia. In his stead, veteran opener Azhar Ali has been appointed as the Test captain for Pakistan’s engagements in the 2019-20 World Test Championship (WTC) while Babar Azam will now lead the T20I side.
Having lost his captaincy in the two formats, Sarfraz has also been axed from both squads with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) press release citing the wicketkeeper batsman’s overall drop in form as the reason for his ouster.
It is arguably the biggest decision head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq has made since taking charge of his new dual role. Pakistan’s Test results had been dipping for some time now with the squad losing home series in the UAE against Sri Lanka and New Zealand while they were also blanked 3-0 in South Africa earlier this year.
“It has been an honour to lead Pakistan at the highest level. I want to thank all my colleagues, coaches and selectors who have helped me in this journey,” Sarfraz stated.
Azhar Ali appointed Test and Babar Azam T20I captain— PCB Media (@TheRealPCBMedia) October 18, 2019
More ▶️ https://t.co/ekAM8l0ENP
“My good wishes are with Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and the Pakistan cricket team, and I hope they will continue to grow stronger and stronger.”
With the team’s ICC Test ranking dropping to No7, the management have opted to go with a new skipper in Azhar Ali to lead the team for their upcoming engagements in the WTC. Pakistan are due to play two Tests against Australia in their upcoming tour which will get underway towards the end of November.
“There is no bigger honour than to captain the Pakistan national cricket team in the pinnacle format of the game,” newly appointed Test skipper Azhar Ali said.
“I feel humbled, excited and privileged, and with the support of the team, look forward to justifying the faith that has been entrusted upon me for the World Test Championship.
“These are exciting times in Pakistan cricket with a new team management. As a captain, I feel comfortable that there will be number of knowledgeable people in the hut who I can rely for advice and guidance.”
Star batsman Babar Azam has now been given the reigns of the No1 ranked T20I side until the end of the 2020 World Cup in Australia at least. The Men in Green are coming off a humiliating 0-3 loss to a second-string Sri Lanka on home soil and they will hope to make amends Down Under where they take on the hosts in three T20 clashes.
“To be named captain of the No.1 ranked side in the world is the biggest thing that has happened to my career to date,” Babar said on his appointment.
“I am ready for this challenge and also willing to learn more in the process. I feel it has been a natural progression for me and I am delighted that the PCB has put faith in my capabilities.”
No decision has been taken so far on the ODI captaincy with Pakistan not slated to play any matches in that format until July, 2020. The PCB have stated that a decision on the Test and T20I vice-captaincies will be taken closer to the Australia series.
The Pakistan Test and T20I squads for the Australia series will be announced later on Friday.