Pakistan on Wednesday, 22 June announced an 18-man strong squad for the two Test matches in July against Sri Lanka, a series part of the 2021-23 ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 cycle. Here are the major takeaways.
Yasir Shah’s return
This year has been very difficult for Yasir Shah. A vital part of Pakistan’s red-ball team for years, fitness issues have meant he spent an extended spell on the sidelines – he last played a Test in August 2021.
In a big boost to Pakistan, the leg-spinner put his fitness issues behind and was selected for the tour of Sri Lanka. The news that Shah wreaked havoc the last time Pakistan toured his country for a Test series will not cheer the islanders over the most.
Shah, who had his first tour of Sri Lanka, proved to be a nightmare for the home batsmen. In the first Test, he took a total of nine wickets, including a magical score of 7/76 in the second innings, giving Pakistan a win in Galle. He then hit a six in the first innings of the second match, although Pakistan’s batsmen could not go ahead with his efforts.
In the decider, the leg-spinner took his third five-wicket haul for the series in the first innings. Pakistan’s batting came in fourth place as the visitors chased down a record target to win. Yasir finished with 24 wickets, the most for both teams, and was named Player of the Series.
If the pitches currently in place in Sri Lanka are any indication, the 36-year-old is once again going to be a handful for Sri Lanka.
Agha Salman got the reward
Agha Salman’s consistent performance in the first-class circuit has been rewarded with a national call-up.
An all-rounder by trade, Salman is a right-handed batsman and also bowls right-arm off-spin. After making his domestic cricket debut in 2013, the 28-year-old had to carve it for almost a decade and the results finally came.
In 68 first-class matches, Salman has scored 4224 runs at an average of 38.40 and scored 11 centuries. With the ball he has taken 88 wickets at 38.40.
On slow wickets in Sri Lanka, Salman could have a chance to make a big mark on the international circuit.
Sajid Khan paid the price
In the absence of Yasir Shah, Sajid Khan was one of the best spinners in Pakistan. After making his debut against Zimbabwe in April 2021, he did not seal his right in Test cricket until the series against Bangladesh in November–December.
In the second Test against the Tigers, he took 12 wickets (8/42 and 4/86) in Pakistan’s innings victory. He also walked away with the Player of the Match award, and finished as the leading wicket-taker in the series with 16 scalps.
However, he had a disappointing series at home against Australia, where he took only four wickets in three matches. Pakistan lost the series 1–0, and Sajid bore the brunt, with Yasir Shah returning in his place.
Pakistan’s chief selector Muhammad Wasim said, “Our spin department has been boosted by the return of Yasir Shah, who proved himself to be a match-winner on our last tour to Sri Lanka and Sajid Khan made way for him.”
Competing for places with Yasir, Mohammad Nawaz and Nauman Ali as well as Salman’s part-time spin, Sajid Khan will have to impress in the domestic circuit if he is to miss out.