Shan Masood, the captain, argues that Sarfaraz was rewarded for his red-ball form by starting him ahead of Rizwan in Perth.

With the selection of Muhammad Rizwan to start the second Test in place of Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan has finally answered the long-standing question of what to do with their wicketkeeping dilemma on Boxing Day.

After struggling against Mitchell Starc’s speed and scoring seven runs in both innings, Sarfaraz had a challenging Perth Test, especially with the bat.

Pakistan announced a 12-man team, which will be reduced to 11 on match day. This is one of at least three changes they will be making for the second Test at the MCG. Pakistan will make a final decision regarding the lineup they play with after all-around player Faheem Ashraf and batsman Khurram Shahzad both suffered injuries that will prevent them from playing in the series.

There is a slim chance that the visitors will launch another all-seam onslaught, leaving Sajid Khan—who is listed in the 12-out—out. That is, however, thought to be a very unlikely option; Sajid and one of Hasan Ali and Mir Hamza receiving the nod are thought to be far more likely. Hasan and Hamza will decide who gets to bowl at a faster speed because Mohammad Wasim Jr. was left out of the reduced squad.

But the most important one is still Sarfaraz’s omission. Due to his past performance in Australia and on comparable bouncy surfaces, his selection for the first Test was under intense scrutiny; this was made worse by the outcome of the Perth Test. Playing Sarfaraz was criticized at the time, but Pakistan team director and coach Mohammad Hafeez refuted those claims, stating it wasn’t accurate to characterize Sarfaraz as “someone who can only perform in a limited set of conditions”.

That is exactly what Pakistan has done, though, as they have dropped him three Tests after one of his career-defining batting efforts under quite different circumstances. During the captains’ news conference on Christmas Day, captain Shan Masood stated that Sarfaraz was selected for Perth despite the statistics due of his red-ball performance in Pakistani domestic cricket and the zeal and dedication he gave to each match.

“I wouldn’t think that that one change would have changed the whole course of the game,” remarked Masood. “Sarfaraz was played for essentially the same reason as Aamer Jamal and Khurram Shahzad.” People like to focus on statistics, and Rizwan has excellent SENA averages. First off, the two are not in competition with one another. They play a similar role in the team. Any rivalry they have is constructive rivalry. We are aware of Rizwan’s past actions, but Sarfaraz was given the advantage because, during his previous tour here in 2016, he averaged 56.50. Yes, it has been a while, but in the previous several years, he has also regularly played red-ball in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

“Rizwan just returned from playing a ton of white-ball cricket at the World Cup. In red-ball cricket, too, he had a void after Sarfaraz replaced him for the New Zealand series. Rizwan hadn’t played much red-ball cricket, and Sarfaraz had put on an incredible show there. So there was a process involved. He has played red-ball cricket there. We were able to get a player like Rizwan in shape because Karachi had a great season and was named the tournament’s MVP. Though it’s not feasible, I would want for both to play if I had my wish. We now believe Rizwan is prepared, and we can allow Saifi to take a brief break to heal before he returns.”

Pakistan landed in Melbourne one week before Boxing Day, despite a lengthy build-up to the Test. However, they haven’t spent a lot of time at the MCG. A two-day practice game at the Junction Oval followed a training session on the 21st. Pakistan took a day off on the 24th, and on Monday due to severe rain, both teams had to hold their training sessions indoors. Masood clarified that Pakistan chose to call a 12 instead of an 11 in order to have one last look at the surface.

“Our last look at the pitch was on the 21st,” he stated. “After that, we relaxed at the Junction Oval yesterday, and it has been raining all day. Thus, I believe we ought to be somewhat reasonable. Make sure we examine the pitch thoroughly, and if we determine that a particular type of bowler or batsman is required, we will act accordingly.”


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