The 16-member squad to play against Sri Lanka in the upcoming Test series was announced on Saturday, with the surprising inclusion of Fawad Alam.
Alam failed to make the selection last year during the England and Ireland tour triggering a massive backlash against then chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, who famously did not pick Alam for the entirety of his captaincy, made the announcement today.
He said that the 34-year-old middle-order batsman was selected because of his past record over 4-5 years as well as his recent prolific scoring in domestic cricket. “So we will make efforts to give him a chance and utilise his form.”
Alam last played a test match against New Zealand at Dunedin in 2009, eight months after an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus at Lahore that shut the doors of international cricket on Pakistan.
He scored a century in his debut test against Sri Lanka in July 2009 and has scored over 12,222 runs in a 16-year first-class career at a healthy average of 56.84.
Alam is one of the two changes selectors have made from the squad that lost the two-Test matches against Australia.
He has replaced Iftikhar Ahmed while leftarm fast bowler Usman Shinwari comes in in place of young fast bowler Mohammad Musa.
“We have been struggling in bowling. Shinwari’s recent form has been very good and the consensus is that his energy and his bowling on flat pitches has been great in all the matches he has played recently,” said Misbah.
Misbah said Musa will remain with the test squad and will continue working with bowling coach Waqar Younis.
“Our thinking is that we need consistency in the team and that’s the reason we didn’t make a lot of changes for the series against Sri Lanka,” Misbah said. “There should be continuity so that players get confidence. We made changes where we feel it’s necessary.”
Misbah was given three responsibilities chief selector, head coach and batting coach when the Pakistan Cricket Board removed head coach Mickey Arthur and batting coach Grant Flower after the World Cup while chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq stepped down.
“We have chosen a team with a view to getting back on the winning track. […] The team we have selected is one we think will be a match-winning combination,” said Misbah in the lead up to the announcement of the team members.
He said he wished to clarify that all the selections are not his alone.
“The perspective is that it’s a one-man show,” Misbah said. “I think there should be clarity on this: there are six selectors who closely watch players in domestic cricket and also do work with the players on their technique. They know all the minuses and pluses of these players very well. Their say is very important in the selection.”
He said that the team was chosen after a detailed debate and consensus.
The squad will be lead by Azhar Ali and includes Mohammad Rizwan (wicket keeper), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah, and Usman Shinwari.
The first match of the series will be held from December 11-15 at the Rawalpindi cricket stadium. The second will be held at Karachi’s National Stadium from December 19-23.