Sri Lanka in Pakistan 2008-09 February 18, 2009

Pakistan recall Asim Kamal for first Test

Ahmed Shehzad wasn't part of the original probables but his 146 in the tour game was too hard to ignore © Cricinfo Ltd

Pakistan's selectors picked five uncapped players in their 15-man squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Karachi, also recalling middle-order batsman Asim Kamal. Under-19 opener Ahmed Shehzad, who scored a hundred in a warm-up game against the tourists, was a surprise first-time pick, while others joining him as first-timers in the Test setup are fast bowlers Mohammad Talha and Sohail Khan, opener Khurram Manzoor and allrounder Fawad Alam.

The selectors picked Shehzad following his 146 for the PCB Patrons XI in the two-day tour match against the Sri Lankans in Karachi, again overlooking Nasir Jamshed. The opening batsman was also a part of the U-19 squad for the World Cup in Malaysia last year.

"Shehzad was not selected in the initial squad of 22 but I said last week that we can pick a player from outside the first list," chief selector Abdul Qadir said. "So after hitting a hundred against Sri Lanka we could not ignore Shehzad."

Kamal's return is otherwise notable, capping the end of a three-year Test exile. Kamal played the last of his 12 Tests in 2005 against England, since when he has been the subject of contentious debate among several selection committees and captains.

He has been in steady, rather than spectacular, form this season (451 runs in eight Quaid-e-Azam trophy games) but his many backers will argue that he should never have been dropped in the first place. The man who leads the domestic run-charts, Fawad Alam (855 runs at 122.14) provides competition alongwith Faisal Iqbal for a middle-order berth.

There will be mild surprise elsewhere at the exclusion of Sohail Tanvir, essentially dropped at the expense of Yasir Arafat. The selectors believe the pair were vying for the same spot, and though both were in fine domestic form, Arafat's impressive Test debut against India in Bangalore in 2007 - the last Test Pakistan played - ensured he got the nod.

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A selection disagreement?
  • There is tension between Qadir and Younis and it is believed that some of the finer details in the squad's make-up were the bone of much contention between the pair. "The captain is the general of the team who has to lead the side in the field so it's a good thing that he should select his own final playing XI," Qadir said.
  • But it is understood that the selection of Shehzad, enthusiastically put forth by Qadir, did not please Younis, mostly as it came from outside the 22 probables picked. But communication between the two is strained currently and one member of the selection committee spent much of the day playing mediator between the two before the squad was announced.
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The emergence of Talha hasn't helped Tanvir's cause either; highly-regarded by men such as Wasim Akram over the last two seasons, Talha has set the domestic scene alight, with 34 wickets so far in six games.

Kamran Akmal has also been retained in the side, despite a team management report after the ODI series loss to Sri Lanka, which specifically asked for a replacement to be found for the continually under-performing Akmal. Qadir indicated the decision was Younis Khan's, strangely admitting it hadn't crossed his mind.

The squad was the first picked by this committee and Younis, who took over as captain of Pakistan from Shoaib Malik after the ODI loss to Sri Lanka.

Squad: Younis Khan (capt), Salman Butt, Khurram Manzoor, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal, Asim Kamal, Fawad Alam, Yasir Arafat, Danish Kaneria, Kamran Akmal (wk), Umar Gul, Mohammad Talha, Sohail Khan.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo