Pakistan suffered a major blow ahead of their tour of South Africa in December with Fakhar Zaman aggravating a knee injury he sustained last month. According to the PCB, the 28-year old opener is expected to be out for "three to five" weeks, which means he will almost certainly miss the first of the three Tests that begins on Boxing Day in Centurion.
It is learnt that Fakhar had complained about pain in his right knee after pulling off a spectacular run-out during the second T20I against Australia in October. He had rushed in from mid-on, tumbled to the ground while collecting the ball, and despite not having a clear view of the stumps, still hit them direct to dismiss Ben McDermott. The next morning, however, Fakhar told the physiotherapist that he had a problem and together they worked to try and manage it.
Fakhar played a further five limited-overs games with the injury before it was decided that he needed to take time off for rehabilitation. That is why he was not picked in the squad for the ongoing Tests against New Zealand. He will join the PCB's medical team at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore on Tuesday, where a plan for his recovery will be charted out.
It is understood that the selectors have begun to shortlist players for the South Africa tour, where they play three Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is. The PCB has already obtained visas for 25 of them. The Test squad is likely to be similar to the one currently playing against New Zealand, although fast bowler Mohammad Amir is expected to return in place of offspinner Bilal Asif.
Fakhar made his Test debut in October and was an instant hit, making 94 and 68 as Pakistan beat Australia by 373 runs. Pakistan have other options to use at the top of the order, such as Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez. Azhar Ali has also opened the batting in the past and Shan Masood, who made a hundred in each innings against New Zealand A recently, may also come into the mix.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent