Mayank Kumar ∙ Dec 13 2020, 11:50 AM | 3 Min Read

NZ vs PAK: Babar Azam ruled out of T20 series; Shadab Khan doubtful for 1st T20

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam has been ruled out of the T20 series against New Zealand starting December 18 in a fresh setback to the already batting squad on the tour of New Zealand. Azam was struck on his right hand during a practice session on Sunday, December 13  and the subsequent X-Ray showed a fracture in his right thumb, ruling him out from the T20 series, the Pakistan Cricket Board said in its release. As a result of the fracture, Azam will be away from notes for a period of 12 days and the doctors will be monitoring his recovery before taking a decision on his participation in the Test series that will start on December 26 following the T20 series, PCB added.

Coach Misbah-ul-Haq said that Babar Azam’s qualities as a batsman will be missed in the T20 series but at the same time it opens windows of opportunity for other promising youngsters in the touring group to make names for themselves.

“Injuries are part and parcel of professional sport and while it is hugely disappointing to lose a player of Babar Azam’s calibre for the T20Is, this opens up opportunities for the other highly talented and exciting players to step-up, understand their responsibilities and try to prove that the Pakistan side is a complete package. I have spoken with Babar and he is sad to miss the T20I series as he was fully focused and keenly looking forward to the T20Is. We have a long season of cricket ahead and we now hope that he regains complete fitness as early as possible so that he can return to competitive cricket,” Misbah said in the PCB release.

Babar Azam is not the only injury concerns for the tourist in New Zealand as the opener Imam-ul-Haq too has injured his left hand in a throwdown session and will be out of action for 12 days and like in the case of Babar Azam, doctors will monitor his progress before taking a decision on his availability for the Test series.

Along with these two batsmen, Vice-captain of the Pakistan T20 team, Shadab Khan, has faced niggles in his groin and may miss out of the first T20 match. However, a decision will be taken on him just in the event of the match.

“The medical team is monitoring Shadab Khan’s groin niggle and we remain optimistic that he will be available for the T20Is, but we will neither risk him nor the team’s chances if we think he needs a few more days to be back to his complete fitness,” Misbah said on Shadab Khan’s injury.

New Zealand have selected a very formidable squad to take on the touring Pakistan side and the absence of Babar Azam will hurt the tourists' chances going into the three-match series.

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New Zealand Cricket: Major developments

New Zealand have dropped Ross Taylor for the T20 series against Pakistan while the pair of Kane Williamson and Trent Boult have made a comeback for the series starting December 20. However, the duo will be able to feature only in the second and the third T20 of the series as the ongoing Test match in Wellington is scheduled to end just three days prior to the start of the T20 series against Pakistan. Selector Gavin Larsen said that dropping Ross Taylor was very tough but finding room for him while other batsmen are in red-hot form was a lot tougher task. “Their inclusion (other young batsmen)and the return of Kane means we’ve left out Ross Taylor. This was, as you’d imagine, a very tough decision as Ross has been a consistent performer for us, but unfortunately we just couldn’t find room in the squad for him due to the quality and form of the other batsman,” Larsen said in NZC release. Mitchell Santner will be leading the Balckcaps against Pakistan in absence of both Kane Williamson and Tim Southee.. Other squad members such as Kyle Jamieson and Daryl Mitchell will miss the first T20 as well as they are part of the second Test against West Indies. The Blackcaps have added the trio of Blair Tickner, Mark Chapman and Doug Bracewell for the first T20 to cover for the Test-playing members and ultimately will make way for them after they return for the second and final T20 of the series. Notably, Mark Chapman has also been called as a stand-by for Kane Williamson who is expecting his first child and might miss out of the rest of the three-match series as well. “It’s great to have the class of Kane and Trent returning to our T20 side having missed the West Indies series after their starring roles in the IPL in November. Kane will return and lead the side for games two and three, but we’ll obviously need to take a wait and see approach in relation to the arrival of his and Sarah’s first child. Mark Chapman’s in the squad for the opening match at Eden Park and is on stand-by for Kane for the remaining games of the series,” Larsen said on the decision-making process around Williamson’s availability. The Blackcaps have retained Glenn Phillips and Devon Conway who were in blistering form against West Indies and the selector Gavin Larsen said that the duo has the chance to back up that performance against Pakistan in the three-match series. “We were thrilled Glenn and Devon were able to take their opportunities well in the previous series and we’re keen to give them the chance to back that up against a strong Pakistan T20 outfit,” Larsen is banking on Conway and Phillips to produce goods. Lockie Ferguson has been ruled out of the T20 series in a major setback for the hosts as well for himself who has been looking in the menacing form in the IPL 2020 and the T20 series against New Zealand. Along with him, Hamish Bennet too has been ruled out due to abdominal tear. In his place, the Blackcaps have handed over maiden call up to Otago Volts pacer Jacob Duffy who has been on the sectors' radar through strong performances in domestic cricket. It’s a special time for Jacob who’s taken his game to another level this summer and I know he’s excited to join the BLACKCAPS camp for the first time. The injury to Lockie is obviously a concern considering what he brings to our bowling attack and we’re awaiting more information around his rehabilitation,” Larsen added. The responsibility of the spin department lies in the hands of Santner and Ish Sodhi while Todd Astle has been recalled into the T20 squad to face Pakistan. The touring Pakistan team will play three T20Is against New Zealand on December 18, 20 and 22, which will be quickly followed by a two-match Test series starting December 26.