Wasim wields axe as Pakistan pick nine uncapped players for SA Test series.

Byline: Khalid H. Khan

KARACHI -- Nine uncapped players were inducted on Friday in a new-look Pakistan squad for the upcoming two-match Test series against South Africa as new chief selector Mohammad Wasim wielded axe on eight members - including Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah - of the side that toured New Zealand recently.

Included in the 20-man party for the first time in the longest format are batsmen Kamran Ghulam, Saud Shakeel, Agha Salman and Abdullah Shafiq, who will compete with Imran Butt to partner Abid Ali at the top of the order, while spinners Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan have been picked alongside pace duo of Tabish Khan and Haris Rauf.

Hasan Ali has been recalled after the fit-again Pakistan paceman - who last played for the country during the 2019 50-over World Cup in England - had performed brilliantly while leading Central Punjab in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. All-rounder Mohammad Nawaz has also returned to the Test fold after four years in the wilderness.

Apart from Shan, Haris Sohail, Abbas and Naseem, the selectors have left out Shadab Khan, Imam-ul-Haq, Sohail Khan and Zafar Gohar with Wasim categorically saying all these players will now spend their time either at the Lahore-based National High Performance Centre or respective regional centres to work on their flaws.

Announcing the squad - that will be pruned to 16 members for the start of the opening Test at here from Jan 26 - at a crowded media conference at the National Stadium, Wasim welcomed the newcomers in an acknowledgment of being consistent performers in domestic competitions.

'These [nine] players are now just a step away from playing for Pakistan in the highest form of cricket and they have been afforded a golden chance to showcase their class and potential,' Wasim, who scored 107 on his Test debut against New Zealand at Lahore in 1996, said.

'This is just reward for their consistent performance, hard work and perseverance in what has been a difficult period because the season is being staged under strict Covid-19 protocols with players confined to bio-secure bubble environment.'

The axing of Shan and Haris was always on the cards after both left-handers endured a horrendous series in New Zealand as Pakistan lost both Tests at Mount Maunganui and Christchurch. The Kuwait-born Shan, in particular, looked far from the opener who came of age during last year's tour of England by scoring a splendid 156 at Old Trafford.

But since that game...

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