ICL: Indian Cricket League

Misbah back in squad as Inzamam opts out


haqFormer Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq made the national selectors’ job easier by ‘opting out’ of the opening Test against South Africa starting in Karachi from Monday.

While announcing a 15-man squad for the first Test, chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed alias Sallu said Inzamam told him that he was unavailable for the match because of personal reasons. “We will consider Inzamam for selection if he makes himself available for the second Test,” Sallu said. The second Test is scheduled to begin in Lahore from October 8.

Inzamam, 37, and disgraced pace star Shoaib Akhtar are the notable omissions from the Test squad that welcomes back Misbah-ul-Haq, the 33-year-old middle-order batsman who was one of the stars of Pakistan’s World Twenty20 campaign in South Africa earlier this month. Mohammad Yousuf is also back after flirting with controversy by joining the breakaway Indian Cricket League (ICL) earlier this summer.

“I had a chat with Inzamam to check about his availability for the Test series but he asked us not to consider him because of personal reasons,” the chief selector told ‘The News’.

Sallu, a former Test cricketer, did not say it but it was obvious that he and fellow selectors must have heaved a sigh of relief at the fact that Inzamam himself opted himself out of the Karachi Test.

The selectors would have found it difficult to make any room for the aging maestro, who just needs 21 more runs to surpass former captain Javed Miandad as the highest run-getter in Tests for Pakistan.

Inzamam’s last Test outing — in the series decided against South Africa in Cape Town in January this year — saw him fetching just 6 and 22 in a five-wicket defeat for Pakistan. He has been largely unimpressive in international outings in the past several months and also failed to find many runs during a brief county stint with Yorkshire this summer.

He was also blamed as the chief villain behind Pakistan’s shock first-round exit in the World Cup and many critics believe his return to the Pakistan line-up may destabilise efforts to rebuild the side. Giving him his 120th Test cap, in such circumstances, seems almost out of question.

Inzamam’s loss is Misbah’s gain. The Mianwali-born batsman, who was Pakistan’s top-scorer in the World Twenty20, is all set to play his sixth Test from Monday here at the National Stadium as a part of the team’s middle order that also includes Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan.

Misbah doesn’t have any good Test credentials to show but his Twenty20 heroics together with the fact that he is Quaid-e-Azam Trophy’s highest scorer earned him the selectors’ nod.

Also back in the side after missing the World Twenty20 is the 33-year-old Yousuf. The Lahore batsman’s future with Pakistan became uncertain earlier this summer when he joined the rebel ICL. But he became available for national selection the other day by signing a central contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

“Yousuf’s availability is a big boost for us,” said Sallu. “He is a great batsman and should strengthen our batting line,” he added.

There was no place for Shoaib Akhtar in the squad as the pacer is facing disciplinary action for hitting teammate Mohammad Asif with a cricket bat during a World Twenty20 training session in Johannesburg earlier this month.

“Shoaib was not considered because the PCB informed us that they are conducting an inquiry against him,” said Sallu.

The selectors kept faith in vice-captain Salman Butt in spite of his failure as an opener in South Africa.

“Salman is one of the three openers we have selected for the first Test because we believe he is a good batsman and will regain his form,” said Sallu.

Left-handed opener Taufeeq Umar earned a recall while Mohammad Hafeez was also selected in the squad.

Also finding spots in the line-up were Faisal Iqbal and Yasir Hameed — who gave impressive performances for Pakistan A against Australia A in a home series recently.

The selectors opted for two specialist spinners with left-armer Abdul Rehman joining accomplished leg-spinner Danish Kaneria in the squad.

Shahif Afridi was not considered after the all-rounder asked the Board to release him from the Test series because of Ramadan.

Shoaib Malik will captain the side for the first time in Tests and Sallu said that he is confident that the young all-rounder will do a good job. “Shoaib has impressed a lot as captain in one-dayers and the Twenty20 event and I’m sure he will do a good job in the Tests.”

Pakistan squad: Shoaib Malik (captain), Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Younis Khan, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Danish Kaneria and Abdul Rehman.

Source:Cricket News

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