Return of Yasir Shah, Agha Salman's inclusion, and Sajid Khan's snub; here are three important points of discussion ahead of the series
Pakistan on Wednesday, 22 June named a strong 18-member squad for the two Tests against Sri Lanka in July, a series part of the ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 cycle. Here are the key takeaways.
Yasir Shah Returns
It has been a trying year for Yasir Shah. A vital cog of Pakistan's red-ball side for years, fitness issues meant he spent an extended spell on the sidelines – he last played a Test in August 2021.
In a major boost to Pakistan, the leg-spinner has put his fitness issues behind him and has been picked for the tour of Sri Lanka. The Islanders won't be best pleased about that news given the havoc Shah wreaked the last time Pakistan toured their country for a Test series.
Shah, in what was his first tour of Sri Lanka, proved a nightmare for the home batters. In the first Test, he scalped nine wickets in total, including a magical 7/76 in the second innings to help Pakistan win in Galle. He followed that up with a six-for in the first innings of the second match, although Pakistan's batters couldn't build on his efforts.
In the decider, the leg-spinner picked up his third five-for of the series in the first innings. Pakistan's batting came through in the fourth as the visitors clinched victory with a record chase. Yasir finished with 24 wickets, the highest among both teams, and was named the Player of the Series.
If the pitches currently in Sri Lanka are any indication, the 36-year-old is going to be a handful for Sri Lanka yet again.
Agha Salman Rewarded
Agha Salman's consistent showing in the first-class circuit has been rewarded with a national call-up.
An all-rounder by trade, Salman is a right-hand batter and also bowls right-arm off-spin. Having made his domestic debut in 2013, the 28-year-old has had to grind it out for close to a decade, and the results have finally arrived.
In 68 first-class matches, Salman has scored 4224 at an average of 38.40 and has 11 centuries to boost. With the ball, he has 88 wickets at 38.40 apiece.
On the slow wickets in Sri Lanka, Salman could have an opportunity to make a big mark on the international circuit.
Sajid Khan Pays the Price
In the absence of Yasir Shah, Sajid Khan was one of Pakistan's go-to spinners. Having made his debut in April 2021 against Zimbabwe, it wasn't until the series against Bangladesh in November-December that he stamped his authority in Test cricket.
In the second Test against the Tigers, he scalped 12 wickets (8/42 and 4/86) in Pakistan's innings win. He walked away with the Player of the Match award as well, and finished as the leading wicket-taker in the series with 16 scalps.
Sajid Khan finished as the highest wicket-taker in the series against Bangladesh
However, he had a disappointing series at home against Australia, where he picked up only four wickets in three matches. Pakistan lost the series 1-0, and Sajid has borne the brunt of it, with Yasir Shah returning to the side in his place.
“Our spin department is boosted with the return of Yasir Shah, who proved himself as a match-winner in Sri Lanka on our last tour and Sajid Khan has made the way for him," said Pakistan Chief selector Muhammad Wasim.
Competing for places with Yasir, Mohammad Nawaz and Nauman Ali as well as the part-time spin of Salman, Sajid Khan will have to impress in the domestic circuit if he's to earn a recall.