Pakistan have suffered a big blow ahead of the first Test against New Zealand with their captain and batting mainstay Babar Azam out of the contest due to a thumb injury. Along with Babar Azam, opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq is also out of the series-opener, scheduled to be played from December 26 in Mount Maunganui as Pakistan named their 17-man squad for the Test series on Monday.
Babar Azam had fractured his right thumb a day after Imam had fractured his left thumb during training sessions in Queenstown last week. Both are yet to return to nets with the team’s medical staff closely monitoring their progress. Decision on their participation in the second Test, which commences in Christchurch on 3 January, will be made closer to the time, according to the PCB.
In Babar Azam’s absence, wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan will lead Pakistan in the first Test. Pakistan have named uncapped Imran Butt in the squad too after the 24-year old’s fine display in domestic cricket. He scored 191 runs in the three ongoing four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches before joining the New Zealand-bound tour party. Butt had also topped batting charts in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 934 runs at an average of over 62 with four centuries and three half-centuries.
“It is disappointing to lose the T20I series against a well-settled New Zealand side, who utilised their resources and conditions to their advantage. We need to up skill and improve our individual and team performances, including in Tuesday’s match, and the sooner we get these sorted the better it will be in term of player confidences and team results as 2021 will not be any easier as we have two major events,” said Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq.
“Contrary to the T20I side, the Test side appears to be pretty organised and we boast some experienced cricketers, both in batting and bowling departments. With some competitive cricket on the tour now under the belt, I am hoping we will be a better outfit in the longer version of the game.
“Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar’s injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions. I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and use the opportunity to rise to the occasion and put the disappointment of the T20I series behind them,” he added.
Pakistan Test squad:
Mohammad Rizwan (captain for 1st Test), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah. (Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq not available for first Test)