Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo
Kamran Akmal has been dropped for the first time in 42 Tests and five years following his error-ridden performance in Sydney, which Pakistan lost by 36 runs. Pakistan took the unusual step of naming their XI a day before the final match in Hobart, ending days of confusion, speculation and no little comedy over Akmal's position, and selecting Sarfraz Ahmed as his replacement.
Akmal, who missed four catches in Sydney, had insisted all along that he would play in Tasmania, contradicting not only the PCB - which issued a press release stating that Ahmed would play as early as last week - but his own on-tour team management. "We are giving him a rest," Mohammad Yousuf, the Pakistan captain, said. "He is a senior player, a key team player and that is it, nothing else. He has done a lot for Pakistan over the last seven-eight years and everyone knows he is very capable of doing big things."
Akmal was again quoted in a local paper on Wednesday as having said that he would play and that nobody from the team management had told him otherwise. It will be the first Test he has missed since being brought back to face Sri Lanka in 2004.
The matter has caused tension within the Pakistan camp and Yousuf has asked his players not to speak to the media. "There might have been a misunderstanding [in what Akmal said]," Yousuf said. "How can he say it? I don't know about today's news. I said to the manager don't let players speak to media, just do not give permission. But if they didn't want him to play, they could've just told us and we would've rested him. It is not a big thing. We sat and spoke to Akmal and he understood."
The matter of Akmal potentially playing as a specialist batsman was not even raised. "That is just putting pressure on him," Yousuf said. "We didn't even discuss it."
Akmal aside, Pakistan have made three other changes to the side that took the field at Sydney. Mohammad Aamer returns in place of Mohammad Sami, but a thin middle order has undergone a re-jig. Shoaib Malik and Khurram Manzoor are back, having been dropped early on in the New Zealand series, and Faisal Iqbal and Misbah-ul-Haq have been cut.
"We gave Shoaib Malik two Tests in New Zealand and he didn't do well," Yousuf said. "It's not just that he got out but he wasn't looking in good form. That's why we rested him to give a chance to others. Same has happened here, so again we have given him a chance. We gave a lot of chances to Misbah and Malik can bowl as well.
"We didn't play bad cricket here. We've had some good sessions of good cricket. The last match almost we won but I think we gave the game away. We played bad cricket on the last day in all areas. My team has full confidence to play good cricket here."