South Africa have landed in Pakistan after nearly 14 years to face the hosts in two Tests and three T20Is and Men in Green’s new chief selector believes giving chance to uncapped players can help Babar Azam and co come out on top against the visitors.
Some believe Muhammad Wasim has named the 20-man squad to please the audiences in order to become a popular chief selector, while others believe that he is the first man to give preference to domestic performers rather than the usual faces.
Openers Abdullah Shafique and Imran Butt, middle-order batsmen Kamran Ghulam, Salman Ali Agha and Saud Shakeel, spinners Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan, and fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Tabish Khan have been named in the squad for two Tests, first in Karachi and the second in Rawalpindi.
Here we take a look at three players who can help Pakistan come out on top against the Proteas in the five-day format.
1. Kamran Ghulam
Kamran Ghulam may not be a household name yet since he hasn’t represented Pakistan national team till now, but people who follow domestic cricket closely know him as the next big thing.
The right-handed batsman, in the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, bettered the record for most runs in a single QeA Trophy season. The record, earlier held by Saadat Ali with 1217 runs, was broken by Ghulam in the final of the tournament where he was representing Khyber-Pakhtukhwa.
However, this is not the only thing that pushed Wasim to include the 25-year-old in the squad.
Ghulam boasts a first-class average of over 53 with 31 matches to his name. He has scored nine 100s and 11 fifties to amass 2,413 runs, with a highest score of 166.
If he can build on his current domestic form when playing against South Africa, the visitors will find it hard to beat Pakistan in the two-Test series.
2. Tabish Khan
If you’re a pacer outside Pakistan, you’ll probably start your career in mid or late-twenties and end it after your mid-thirties. However, right-arm medium pacer Tabish Khan will start his international career at 36.
Some may say he was not international material, but with 598 wickets in 137 first-class matches, there is and there never was a valid reason to keep him out of the national fray. Well, he’s not the only one who had to wait a long time to get his chance, Fawad Alam is another case study in this regard too.
There is light at the end of every tunnel and Tabish had to travel miles to find his light and he would love to grab the chance with both hands when he bowls to the South Africans in Karachi and Rawalpindi in the two Tests.
Jury is out on whether he will be able to live up to the hype after spending his heydays in the domestic wilderness, but if Tabish wants to question a system which gives multiple chances to a few and nearly zero to some, he will have to utilise all the experience he has gained and get his first and maybe final hurrah on the international level.
3. Saud Shakeel
Another youngster, with heaps of runs behind him and a first-class average of nearly 49, Saud Shakeel will don the greens of Pakistan during the two Tests against South Africa.
At the age 25, Shakeel has 3220 runs in his books in 46 first-class outings. He also has 10 tons and 17 fifties to boast about and if this is not enough, he can bowl left-arm slow.
Shakeel has come to the fore through the Pakistan cricket ranks and has played for the U19 team, which may prove to be a point in his favour as he had the grooming of a cricketer from an early age.
All in all, Pakistan have played a big gamble by benching their usual suspects and giving the domestic performers a chance to shine. This move may turn new chief selector Wasim into a hero that many were waiting for, however it can backfire too.