Leg-spinner Shadab Khan is facing a race against time to be fit for the Test and according to a report by ESPNCricinfo, has been all but ruled out of the clash.
The 20-year-old Pakistan star is said to be still recovering from a groin injury he picked up during the side’s campaign in the recently concluded Asia Cup. He has so far played four Tests in his still fledgling career in which he has picked up eight scalps while also registering three half-centuries with the bat.
If Shadab is indeed unfit come Sunday, it will put pay to Pakistan hopes of unleashing a twin leg-spin attack against the vulnerable Aussies.
Senior leg-spinner Yasir Shah is expected to lead the spin contingent which could now feature Bilal Asif instead of Shadab. Bilal provides Pakistan with a varied option with his off-spin and could be particularly effective against an Australia batting card which includes three left-handers in the top six batsmen.
The 33-year-old off-spinner has been capped three times by Pakistan in the ODI format but is yet to make his Test debut.
While Shadab’s injury could open the doors for a Bilal debut, it could also strengthen Mohammad Hafeez’s case for an inclusion in the playing XI.
The veteran all-rounder was a late addition to the Test squad for the series and his off-spin abilities could be a handy option for skipper Sarfraz Ahmed to turn to against the Aussies.
It has been over two years now that Hafeez has featured in the format with his last appearance coming in August 2016 in a Test against England at Birmingham.
Ever since he hit a world-record 546 run in a local Harris Shield match in Mumbai as a 14-year-old, comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar have followed Prithvi Shaw throughout his meteoric rise in cricket.
The 18-year-old opening batsman made history for India on Thursday when he became the youngest from his country to register a Test ton on debut.
The Mumbai-born teenager struck a fluent 134 in his maiden Test innings against the West Indies at Rajkot.
Like his idol Tendulkar, Shaw also registered tons on his Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy domestic debuts for Mumbai.
His century against the West Indies on Friday made him the second youngest Indian batsman after Tendulkar to do so in a Test match.
As expected, Tendulkar was full of praise for the youngster.
“Whatever I have seen of him (Shaw), he’s been a fast learner. To me, being talented is one thing but what you do with that talent becomes more important. If you want to succeed at the international level you’ve got to be a fast learner. And Prithvi is a very good learner,” Tendulkar told the Times of India in an interview.
“When somebody has to perform and sustain at this level, and play cricket at different grounds and conditions across the world for a long time to come, adaptability becomes the critical factor. I feel he has the knack to adapt to different situations and conditions. To me, that is Prithvi’s biggest strength,” the batting maestro added.
When asked what advice he would give to the youngster after his sensational international debut, Tendulkar replied, “Just go with the flow. Don’t calculate or think too much. Just enjoy your cricket. Every outing is a special outing. Every outing, you go out with a lot of pride. That’s what it was for me.
“I took a lot of pride in walking out on the field – be it for India or Mumbai or any club for that matter. Just give all the possible respect you can to the game.”
Aaron Finch was announced as the captain while Mitchell Marsh and Alex Carey were named as vice-captains as Australia revealed its 14-man squad for the upcoming T20 series against Pakistan in the UAE.
Hard-hitting opener Chris Lynn was also named in the Aussie squad while Adam Zampa and Nathan Coulter-Nile made their international returns.
Glenn Maxwell was also included in the T20 squad after cruelly missing out on selection for the Test series against the same opponents. Test specialist Nathan Lyon could feature in his first T20 international since 2016 after being named in the squad.
There was a maiden Australia call-up was handed to Tasmania batsman Ted McDermott for the three-match series that gets underway in Abu Dhabi on October 24.
“Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge Aaron, Mitch and Alex on being announced as the new captain and vice-captains of the Australian T20 squad,” head coach Justin Langer said at the announcement of the squad.
“They are outstanding young men and extremely talented cricketers. To be endorsed by their peers, and to then back it up with powerful presentations, just showcased their leadership qualities and vision for Australian cricket,” Langer added.
The Australia coach lauded the leadership abilities of Finch who is currently the No1 ranked batsman in the T20 format.
“Aaron has already captained Australia in the recent T20s we played in Zimbabwe, and I’ve been extremely impressed with his impact on the Test squad over here in the UAE. We know he’s an exceptional player, and he’s arguably the most in form T20 player in the world at the moment,” he stated.
Most of the Australia squad are already in the UAE where they are preparing for the first of the two Tests against Pakistan which gets underway on Sunday.
AUSTRALIA 14-MAN T20 SERIES SQUAD
Aaron Finch (c), Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.