ISLAMABAD: Leg-spinner Yasir Shah has returned to the 18-member Pakistan team for the two-match ICC World Test Championship series against Sri Lanka starting with the opening match at Galle from July 16.
The spin-bowling packed squad surprisingly missed the name of Sajid Khan who returned as the player of the series during last away tour to Bangladesh.
When ‘The News’ approached a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official to know about Sajid’s mysterious omission, he said that Yasir’s inclusion forced the selectors to drop one spinner.
“Since Sajid has been a playing member, Yasir’s inclusion means he would not be there. In that case it would have been a luxury to include him in the touring squad,” the official said.
However, the reason given by the PCB official was unconvincing since Sajid had been a leading performer in the spin department in the recent past. Yasir Shah, however, was excited at his return to the side.
“Thanks to Allah almighty, I have regained my fitness due to the efforts put in by the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) trainers and the coaches at the National High Performance Centre during the conditioning camp. Now I am confident to be back at my best during the two-match series,” Yasir said while talking to ‘The News’.
Yasir last played for Pakistan in the 2021 away series against West Indies.
“I have been training hard since my full recovery. The camp at the Pindi Stadium would help me further in regaining the top form.”
In Sajid’s absence, spin all-rounders Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha have been inducted in the team with consistent left-armer Nauman Ali retaining his place along with fit-again Yasir. Yasir was instrumental in Pakistan’s 2-1 victory over Sri Lanka on their last tour of the island in 2015, snaring 24 wickets at 19.33. He comes back into the side after regaining full fitness. Yasir played his 46th and last Test, to date, against the West Indies in August 2021.
Salman Ali Agha, who has scored 4,224 runs and taken 88 wickets in first-class cricket, is another addition to the squad. Mohammad Nawaz is the third player to be recalled. He was named in the squad for Australia Tests but was withdrawn due to injury. The squad named for the latest ICC World Test Championship fixtures includes three openers, four middle-order batters, three all-rounders, two wicketkeepers, two spinners and four fast bowlers.
Chief selector Muhammad Wasim said: “We have selected this squad considering the conditions in Sri Lanka and have equipped the team with the best possible resources.
“Our spin department is boosted with the return of Yasir Shah, who proved himself as a match-winner in Sri Lanka on our last tour and Sajid Khan has made the way for him. The spin department also includes two spin all-rounders in Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha and left-arm orthodox Nauman Ali.
“Salman Ali Agha has shown consistent performances with the bat in the past three seasons and he is a handy off-spin option.
“Our team has recently put strong performances in Bangladesh and although results against Australia were not ideal we displayed solid cricket and for that reason we have retained the core to instill consistency and continuity and have trimmed the squad size following the relaxation in Covid-19-induced travel restrictions.
“These two matches are extremely crucial for our side as we have World Test Championship points at stake. I wish our boys all the best and I am sure they will make us proud.”
Babar Azam’s side will converge in Islamabad on June 25 to finalise their preparations for the Test series at the Pindi Cricket Stadium with a seven-day camp that stretches from June 26 to July 2 before departing for Sri Lanka on July 6.
Pakistan will play a three-day warm-up match from July 11-13. The first Test will be played at Galle from July 16, while the second Test will be staged at Colombo from July 24.
For Pakistan, who are on the fifth spot, this series is their final away commitment of the current ICC World Test Championship cycle, which stretches from July 2021 to June 2023, and they will be eager to improve their position on the table by repeating the same result as last time with a series win.
Pakistan have played three series in the current cycle and with wins in three Tests and two draws are ranked fifth in the nine-team table.
Babar Azam’s men levelled the two-Test series in the West Indies, defeated Bangladesh 2-0 in their second away assignment before Australia edged out with a 1-0 victory in Pat Cummins’ side’s historic tour of the country. In the upcoming 2022-23, Pakistan are set to host England and New Zealand for three and two Tests in a bumper home international season.
Pakistan squad for Sri Lanka Tests: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain, wicketkeeper), Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood and Yasir Shah.
Player Support Personnel: Mansoor Rana (manager), Saqlain Mushtaq (head coach), Shahid Aslam (assistant to head coach), Mohammad Yousuf (batting coach), Shaun Tait (bowling coach), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Drikus Saaiman (trainer/strength and conditioning coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Ahsan Iftikhar Nagi (media and digital content manager), Col (r) Muhammad Mukarram Khan (security manager), Dr Muhammad Khurram Sarwar (team doctor), Talha Ejaz (analyst) and Malang Ali (masseur).
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