Fawad Alam returns to Test side after 10 years, Usman Shinwari earns maiden call-up
Fawad Alam has been named in Pakistan's 16-member squad for the upcoming two-match Test series against Sri Lanka as he replaces middle-order batsman Iftikhar Ahmed.
Fawad, who last played a Test match for Pakistan in 2009, scored four centuries for Sindh in this year's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy racking up 781 runs at an average of 71 across 10 games.
The unorthodox left-handed batsman struck an imperious 168 on his Test debut against Sri Lanka at Colombo but was rather unceremoniously dropped from the squad after his third game in the format, though he intermittently featured for Pakistan in ODI cricket.
“I want to congratulate Fawad Alam on his selection for the Sri Lanka Tests," head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq said while announcing the squad in Lahore.
Fawad, 34, averages 56.84 in first-class cricket - the best among Pakistan batsmen - and Misbah acknowledged his unwavering consistency made it hard for the selectors to ignore him.
"It is a reward for his continued hard work, perseverance and dedication to the game. His selection is not only a lesson to the emerging cricketers but also a testament of the selectors’ policy of valuing domestic cricket and rewarding consistent performers," he added.
Pakistan have opted not to tinker too much with the bowling combination except for the inclusion of uncapped Usman Shinwari in place of Muhammad Musa.
Left-arm quick Shinwari has been part of Pakistan's white-ball set-up since he made his debut and will now have a chance to register his first appearance in five-day cricket.
Meanwhile, Misbah said teenage pacer Musa will travel with the team and will be kept as a back-up option though he is not in the squad.
“Muhammad Musa will not be part of the squad, but he will remain with the side so that he can continue to work on his bowling with Waqar Younis," he claimed.
Unlike their Sri Lankan counterparts, Pakistan do not possess a variety in their spin stocks with Yasir Shah and Kashif Bhatti set to perform the slow bowling duties.
'We believe in picking the best available players' - Misbah
Several players who participated in Pakistan's recent tour of Australia, have managed to retain their spot in the line-up despite the team succumbing to successive innings defeats.
Haris Sohail and Imam-ul-Haq had come under scrutiny for their failures on the tour whereas paceman Imran Khan, recalled to the side after almost three years, also could not make an impact in the opening Test having been selected ahead of Mohammad Abbas.
But Misbah believed the retention of these players heralded a more settled unit as they strive for their first success in the World Test Championship.
“We have retained 14 of the 16 players who went to Australia.
"This indicates our consistency and continuity as we believe in first picking the best available players and then providing them sufficient opportunities to justify their talent."
The former skipper echoed captain Azhar Ali's comments regarding the Australia series debacle and conceded it had taken a toll on the players.
“The Australia tour was well below our expectations and has affected our pride. We prepared as best as we possibly could but just couldn’t convert those preparations into on-field performances."
The first Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka will commence on December 11 in Rawalpindi before the second game kicks off in Karachi on December 19.