Pakistan will step into a new Test era without retired batting greats Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq when they take on Sri Lanka in the first Test in Abu Dhabi from Thursday.
Playing without Younis and Misbah is unaccustomed territory for Pakistan, who haven’t had a Test featuring neither of the talismanic, prolific pair in seven years.
It comes as they prepare to welcome the return of full international cricket to their home country next month, when Sri Lanka visit for a Twenty20 game in Lahore.
Together, Younis and Misbah have appeared in 193 Tests, accumulating 15,331 runs, 44 centuries and 15 century stands between them, briefly lifting the team to the top of the Test rankings in August last year.
They have dominated the batting at Pakistan’s venues in United Arab Emirates (UAE), where they have been forced to play home games since a deadly terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009.
The pair made Pakistan so invincible that they have not lost any of the nine series they have played in UAE, with new captain Sarfraz Ahmed vowing to implement what they learnt from the two greats.
“Their contributions are immense,” admits Ahmed. “But we have to move on and implement what we have learnt from Misbah and Younis in the last seven years.”
Experienced batsman Azhar Ali will move down to his customary number three after opening the innings since last year.
“We will use two openers, then Ali will bat at three followed by Asad Shafiq, so we have players who can handle the batting,” said Ahmed.
Younis is not only Pakistan’s highest Test runs scorer, with 10,099, but the slips fielding specialist also holds the national record of 139 catches in 118 Tests.
Misbah’s calm influence as a batsman, as well as skipper, will also be tough to replace.