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Pakistan fumes as star snubs Tests to play BBL



In a move former fast bowler-turned chief selector Wahab Riaz said would “hurt Pakistan cricket”, fast bowler Haris Rauf has withdrawn himself from consideration for the three-Test series against Australia in favour of playing in the BBL.

Rauf signed with the Melbourne Stars for the 2023-2024 season, but allegedly told Wahab he would make himself available for international duties instead.

But speaking in Lahore where he announced Pakistan’s extended 18-player squad for the Test series, Wahab said Rauf pulled out the night before the unveiling due to fitness and workload concerns.

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“When we spoke to him two days ago, he gave his consent to play Test cricket for Pakistan, but last night he changed his mind, and now he doesn’t want to be part of this Test series,” Wahab said.

“I’m revealing this because we should be honest with officials, teammates, and the public. 

“We spoke to Haris and he was worried about his body and fitness, as well as his workload. 

“(Head coach) Mohammad Hafeez and I sat with him and tried to facilitate him in every way. We told him even if he didn’t perform well there, we would accept it.”

Wahab said he and other selectors had reassured Rauf he would have been picked as an impact bowler and only required to bowl a handful of overs per day in short spells.

“Our physio spoke to him and said he wouldn’t expect any issue or injury. Of course there’s fatigue, but we were sure we could have managed that very well. But he pulled out at the last moment and he made himself unavailable. 

“I think this will hurt Pakistan cricket.”

However, ESPNcricinfo reports Rauf has denied he ever made himself available in the first place, and only reconfirmed his unavailability to Wahab the night before.

Rauf has played just one Test for Pakistan – against England in Rawalpindi last December – and bowled just 13 overs in the first innings before injury kept him out of the attack in the second innings. He has not been seen in the Test side since.

A crucial part of Pakistan’s white-ball set up, Rauf took 16 wickets at the World Cup, including two three-wicket hauls against the Netherlands and England.

Injuries to Naseem Shah, Mohammad Hasnain and uncapped quick Ihsanullah – as well as favourable conditions for quicks in Australia – meant Rauf was in the box seat to earn a Test recall.

Instead, selectors have named Khurram Shahzad to make his international debut.

“… At a time when our three main high-pace bowlers, who can bowl over 140 (km/h) are unavailable, at some point you need to sacrifice to play for your country,” Wahab said.

“Haris was committed to us, and pulled out after two days.”

Wahab played his last international match in a T20 against New Zealand in 2020, but played in the Pakistan Super League in March.

“I’ve played with most of these boys and I have a great relationship with them,” he said. 

“But when it comes to professionalism, we have to look at what’s best for Pakistan. 

“Haris was unavailable after the England series and not a part of any other Test series. When you are a centrally contracted player, it is your duty to serve Pakistan. 

“I’m not disappointed, but the same players will later complain they weren’t given the opportunity, and people will ask why such and such player wasn’t selected.”

After missing the World Cup finals, long-time skipper Babar Azam announced he would relinquish the role across all three formats.

Wahab confirmed Shan Masood would lead the side through the next World Test Championship cycle to the end of 2025.

Rauf’s Stars will play in the BBL opener against the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba on December 7, and their second against the Scorchers on December 13. The first Test begins in Perth on December 14. 

The Stars are scheduled to play three matches that directly clash with the Tests, including one on Boxing Day night against the Sixers at the SCG.

Wahab said Rauf would still be picked in Pakistan’s T20 and ODI sides.

Pakistan Test squad v Australia: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi.

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