NAPIER: Pakistan captain Babar Azam has been ruled out of the first Test against New Zealand at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui starting Dec 26 due to a fractured thumb, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a media release on Monday.
Babar, 26, sustained the injury during a practice session in Queenstown last week and was ruled out of the ongoing three-match Twenty20 International series. Opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq will also miss the first of two Tests against Kane Williamson’s men after fracturing his left thumb during a net session.
“Both players are yet to return to the nets with the touring side’s medical staff closely monitoring their progress,” the PCB said. “A decision on their participation in the second Test [which commences at Hagley Oval in Christchurch from Jan 3] will be made closer to the time.”
Rizwan to lead tourists in Mount Maunganui
Wicket-keeper/batsman Mohammad Rizwan — who was appointed as the Test vice-captain — will become Pakistan’s 33rd Test skipper when he leads the side in Babar’s absence.
“Although it will be nearly two weeks since Babar’s injury when the first test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions,” Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said in Napier, where his charges face New Zealand in the third Twenty20 International at McLean Park after New Zealand had already wrapped up the three-match series in with a nine-wicket win in the second game in Hamilton on Sunday.
“It will be nearly two weeks to Babar’s injury when the first Test starts, [but] it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions.
“But I am confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and put the disappointment of the T20 International series behind them.”
Pakistan have included uncapped batsman Imran Butt in their 15-man squad for the first Test. The 24-year-old top-order right-hander struck 934 runs at an average of over 62 with four centuries and three half-centuries in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season.
Also returning to the Test side are former captain Azhar Ali, Abid Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah.
They will replace the T20 squad members Abdullah Shafiq, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Usman Qadir and Wahab Riaz who will now join Pakistan Shaheens for five T20 matches against the local and New Zealand XI sides.
Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez will not be in action on the New Zealand tour after the final Twenty20 International. Imad will travel to Australia to join Melbourne Renegades in the BBL, while Hafeez will return to Pakistan.
Squad for first Test: Mohammad Rizwan (captain), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah.
Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2020