Pakistan T20I and Test squad for the tour of Australia: Hits and misses
With Babar Azam and Azhar Ali taking over the reins of captaincy from Sarfaraz Ahmed, the tour of Australia marks a new dawn for Pakistan cricket.
The tour comprises of three T20Is and two Tests, the first T20I of which will be played in Sydney on November 3.
"Our aim is to move up the Test rankings and begin the Test Championship strong. There is a need to play a different brand of cricket, the balance of the squads is reflective of us having options to play aggressive, attacking cricket," head coach and chief-selector Misbah-ul-Haq said while announcing the Pakistan squad.
The fact that the T20 World Cup is just a year away and it would be held in Australia provides the number-one ranked T20I team Pakistan an opportunity to prepare itself for the showpiece event.
This also marks the beginning of the Test Championship cycle for Pakistan. While Australia already began their Test Championship with a historic Ashes win in England, this will be Pakistan's turn to start their campaign off on unfamiliar territory.
Let's have a look at the hits and misses of the Pakistan T20I and Test squad for their tour of Australia:
Mohammad Irfan's comeback
Irfan has been drafted back into the side keeping the T20 World Cup in mind. At 37 years of age, Irfan has impressed with his performances in the leagues all around the globe and has been selected on merit.
What further goes in his favour is that with a height in excess of 7 feet, he can extract more bounce than most pacers, especially in Australia, even from the good length. This becomes very awkward to play as there are not many around in international cricket who bowl with the left-arm at that angle and the opposition batsmen will take time to adjust against him.
"Based on horses for courses and his form, the Australian conditions will present Irfan with the opportunity to excel. This selection has also been made while looking at next year's T20 WC, which will be played in Australia. If we can successfully manage his workload, then he can be a valuable asset for us in next global event," Misbah emphasized.
Sarfaraz Ahmed removed
Former Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmad has not only been sacked from captaincy but has also been sidelined from both the T20Is and Test squads. While his exclusion from the T20 side is contestable, his form in Tests matches had been abysmal with him having scored a Test century five years ago.
Moreover, he returned with three ducks in six innings in his last Test series in South Africa. Not only his captaincy was not proactive, his presence as a batsman was eating up a slot in the batting order which can now hopefully be better utilised by Mohammad Rizwan.
Shadab Khan returns to form
In T20 cricket, it has almost become inevitable for every leading team to have a good leg spinner. Shadab Khan, also being a good lower-order batsman capable of hitting the long ball, has served Pakistan cricket well in the last few years. However, his form had been on the decline of late with the spinner managing only three wickets from two matches in the ODIs and two wickets from three T20Is against Sri Lanka.
Shadab has shown a lot of promise in Pakistan's ongoing domestic National T20 Cup with him being the leading wicket-taker with 9 wickets from 6 matches. His best match figures of 4 for 26 came in the last League match against Balochistan and the all-rounder would expect to carry his form into international cricket as well.
Hasan Ali's absence
While Hasan Ali's recent dip in form has been widely discussed, it is also true that his presence in the team would have served to make Pakistan's Test pace attack a bit more well-rounded. Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have both hung their boot from red-ball cricket in order to elongate their white-ball career and Mohammad Abbas (14 Tests) remains the only quick with some experience in Pakistan's Test squad. Hasan Ali's (9 Tests) presence in the team would have been a welcome call but his back injury made him unvailable for selection.
Too many changes in T20Is
There have been unnecessary fluctuations in Pakistan's T20I squad lately. The inclusion of Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal was not warranted and has distributed the team's rhythm. If reports are to be believed, Sarfaraz Ahmed was miffed by this move. Given that Sarfaraz had led the team to the No. 1 rankings after taking over following the 2016 T20 World Cup, sacking him from captaincy in this format, on the basis of the blip against Sri Lanka makes little sense, especially with the World Cup approaching.
Adding one or two inexperienced players in the line-up is understandable. It helps to give the outfit a novel look and also adds an unknown entity for the opposition to figure out. But going for a complete overhaul while touring is never advisable.
Kashif Bhatti, Imran Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Musa Khan and Naseem Shah are all inexperienced and would have to fight their nervousness in order to put their best on display before hostile Australian crowds.
Here are Pakistan's announced squads:
Test squad-Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed , Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah
T20I squad- Babar Azam (captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz
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