Mohammad Rizwan to Replace Sarfaraz Ahmed as Wicketkeeper for Second Test in Melbourne
Skipper Shan Masood says playing Sarfaraz instead of Rizwan in Perth was a good decision because Sarfaraz performed well in red-ball cricket.
The important question of who will keep wickets for Pakistan on Boxing Day has been answered. Mohammad Rizwan will now replace Sarfaraz Ahmed for the second Test.
Sarfaraz faced challenges in the Perth Test, especially with his batting. He only scored seven runs in both innings and had difficulty facing Mitchell Starc’s fast bowling.
Pakistan is making at least three changes for the second Test at the MCG. They have announced a 12-man squad, which will be reduced to 11 on match day. Khurram Shahzad is out of the series, and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf will also be excluded due to a subpar performance in the previous Test. The final decision on the playing combination will be made by Pakistan.
There’s a slight chance that the visiting team might choose an all-seam bowling attack, which could mean Sajid Khan, included in the 12, might be left out. However, this is seen as unlikely. It’s more probable that Sajid, along with either Hasan Ali or Mir Hamza, will be selected. Mohammad Wasim Jnr is not in the final squad, so the discussion for the pace bowling options revolves around Hasan and Hamza.
But the most important change is Sarfaraz’s exclusion. His selection for the first Test was heavily criticized due to his past performance in Australia and on similar bouncy pitches, especially after the Perth Test. Back then, Pakistan team director and coach Mohammad Hafeez defended the decision, stating that it was unfair to brand Sarfaraz as someone who could only excel in specific conditions.
Now, three Tests after one of his standout batting displays in different conditions, Pakistan has chosen to drop him. Captain Shan Masood, in the Christmas Day press conference, mentioned that Sarfaraz was picked for Perth based on his red-ball form in domestic cricket in Pakistan and the dedication he showed in every match.
“I don’t believe that making that one change would have completely altered the course of the game,” Masood remarked. “The decision to play Sarfaraz was based on the same reasoning we used for selecting Aamer Jamal and Khurram Shahzad. When people look at the stats, they see that Rizwan has a strong average in SENA. However, there’s no rivalry between the two. Both are equally valuable to the team, and any competition they have is positive. We acknowledge Rizwan’s achievements, but we gave Sarfaraz the chance because he had an impressive average of 56.50 on his last tour here in 2016. Admittedly, it’s been a while, but he has consistently played red-ball cricket in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in recent years.”
“Rizwan had just finished playing in the World Cup, which involved a lot of white-ball cricket. Additionally, he had a gap in red-ball cricket since Sarfaraz took over from him during the New Zealand series. Sarfaraz had an excellent performance in that series, while Rizwan hadn’t played much red-ball cricket. So, there was a strategic reason behind it. Sarfaraz had been actively participating, especially in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, where he was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, allowing us to bring Rizwan back into red-ball form. Ideally, I would like both to play, but that’s not feasible. Now, we believe Rizwan is ready, and we can give Saifi a bit of rest to recover and return.”
Despite the significant lead-up to the Test – with Pakistan arriving in Melbourne a week before Boxing Day – they have spent limited time at the MCG. A training session on the 21st was followed by a two-day practice game at the Junction Oval. On the 24th, Pakistan took a rest day, and due to heavy rain, both teams had to train indoors on Monday. Masood clarified that naming a squad of 12, instead of 11, allowed them one last opportunity to assess the playing surface.
“Our most recent assessment of the pitch was on the 21st,” he stated. “After that, we headed to the Junction Oval, took a break yesterday, and today’s training was affected by rain. So, we need to be prudent. We want to thoroughly examine the pitch and, if needed, make decisions on the type of bowler or batsman to include in the team.”