Wicket-keeper Mohammad Salman, allrounderHammad Azam and left-arm seamer Junaid Khan are the new faces in Pakistan’s 15-member squad for the upcoming two-Test series against West Indies.
Misbah-ul-Haq who led the Test side creditably in the aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal, remains in charge. Salman, Azam and Junaid have all been, in effect, kept on after being blooded in the limited-overs leg of the West Indies tour.
The only minor surprise in the squad was the exclusion of Adnan Akmal, who has been the Test wicketkeeper in charge since his elder brother Kamran lost his place in the five-day format in the aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal last summer. Over four Tests against South Africa and New Zealand he performed well with the gloves, generally neat and clean and, importantly given his brother’s faltering form, safe in taking 17 dismissals.
Though there was no big innings with the bat, there was a handy 44 in Hamilton earlier this year. His replacement has impressed behind the stumps in the ongoing ODI series but hasn’t really had an opportunity to do so with the bat, having batted once in three ODIs upto the fourth game between the two sides.
There is a fair degree of stability from the last Test squad for New Zealand with the three newcomers the only changes. Sohail Tanvir has been replaced by Junaid and the continuing development of middle order batsmen Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali means there is no place for Khurram Manzoor. Azam, for the first time since Yasir Arafat’s brief Test flirtation in 2007-08, offers Pakistan a genuine Test all-round option – Shahid Afridi’s one-Test comeback last year at Lord’s notwithstanding.
Younis Khan, who was rested for the one-dayers, returns for the Tests, as does Umar Gul.
The first Test will be played from May 12 at Providence Stadium in Guyana, and the second will be played at Warner Park in St Kitts from May 20. The series is widely regarded as Pakistan’s best chance to win their first-ever Test series in the Caribbean, against a weakened West Indies side that might be missing several key players.
Pakistan already have an unassailable lead in the five-match ODI series, having won the first three. West Indies won the lone Twenty20 fixture.
Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan, Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Salman (wk), Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Tanvir Ahmed, Junaid Khan, Hammad Azam