Mohammad Yousuf retained captain for Australia
Pakistan have left out Younis Khan from a 16-man squad for the three-Test series against Australia, beginning in late December. Younis had not informed the selection committee or board of his availability for the series, having relinquished the captaincy and his place in the side after an ODI series loss to New Zealand last month.
Mohammad Yousuf, captain in Younis' place, will continue to lead the team in Australia. Yousuf's brief captaincy experience, incidentally, includes two Tests as leader on the 2004-05 tour to Australia; Pakistan lost both Tests though they were markedly improved from the side that lost the first Test at Perth by 491 runs under Inzamam-ul-Haq. Yousuf also scored a fine hundred in the Melbourne Test as captain.
"Younis wanted to rest but he didn't play in the domestic cricket since the one-day series against New Zealand," chief selector Iqbal Qasim told reporters. "He didn't give his availability to us and therefore we did not select him." Younis stepped away from the game after claiming he had "lost command" of the side, following months of strained relationships with a number of senior players.
Younis was Pakistan's leading run-getter on their last tour to Australia, the start of a period in which he established himself as one of Pakistan's most reliable batsman at one-down. Alongside Yousuf and Inzamam, he formed a formidable middle order, but Inzamam's retirement and Yousuf's time away with the ICL has weakened the batting considerably; a perpetually unreliable opening pair has added to the kind of woes seen in the current series with New Zealand, where only the Akmal brothers have had any consistent success.
Younis had a successful stint with South Australia last season as well and was expected to play a pivotal role with bat and his leadership if Pakistan were to harbour real hopes of winning a first Test against Australia in 14 years. Sources close to Younis insist this is not the end of his career and that he intends to make a comeback after the series but the former captain himself has said nothing so far.
There are few surprises elsewhere in the squad. Sixteen of the 18 players currently taking part in a three-Test series in New Zealand will go straight to Australia after the series is over. Only allrounder Yasir Arafat and Sarfraz Ahmed, the back-up wicketkeeper, have been cut from the squad. Questions may well be asked of the decision to persist with Khurram Manzoor as opener and the retention in the middle order of Shoaib Malik, currently in the middle of a horror run that has seen him score 46 runs in four innings in New Zealand.
Yousuf will also lead the ODI side in Australia, with Shahid Afridi as his deputy.
Mohammad Yousuf (capt), Salman Butt, Khurrum Manzoor, Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik, Fawad Alam, Faisal Iqbal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal (wk), Danish Kaneria, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamer, Abdur Rauf, Umar Akmal.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo