Who is Saim Ayub - Pakistan's young batting sensation picked for Australia Test tour?

Left-handed batsman selected for three-match series Down Under

Pakistan's Saim Ayub during a T20 match against Afghanistan in Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Every Cricket World Cup generally marks the beginning of a new cricket cycle for teams, irrespective of the result.

As the ODI tournament is held every four years, it is a good milestone to gauge the general health of a team since the players participating in it mostly play red ball and white ball formats.

For Pakistan, the 2023 World Cup was a poignant moment as they made a clean break from the past, overhauling their entire set up. Babar Azam gave up captaincy in all formats after an indifferent World Cup, while team director Mickey Arthur and head coach Grant Bradburn were removed from their positions; former skipper Mohammad Hafeez took over both roles.

Top-order batsman Shan Masood was given the Test captaincy while left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi was appointed T20 captain.

Pakistan’s next assignment is arguably the toughest in cricket – a three-match Test series in Australia. The Aussies are the 50-over and Test champions and Pakistan have a poor record in the country, losing 14 Tests in a row there.

With premier fast bowler Naseem Shah injured and Haris Rauf unwilling to play Tests, Pakistan have a severely weakened bowling attack that will once again be led by Afridi.

However, their batting still holds a lot of promise. Masood is best suited for the fast surfaces of Australia, while Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Abdullah Shafique, too, should hold their own.

All eyes, however, will be on a young batsman widely tipped to be the future star of Pakistan cricket – Saim Ayub.

Who is Saim Ayub?

The 22-year-old left-handed batsman has been making waves across formats. The Karachi player has already represented Pakistan in T20 cricket but the upcoming series is where the world gets a proper look at him.

Ayub has broken into the Pakistan Test squad after a stellar season. He scored 553 runs in four first-class matches for his provincial team Karachi in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He hit three centuries, including a match-winning double century and a century in the final of the tournament against Faisalabad last month.

He then took that form to the Pakistan One-Day Cup this month, emerging as the competition’s highest run-getter with 397 runs from eight innings.

Earlier, Ayub had set the stage alight during the Caribbean Premier League in September, finishing as the second highest scorer with 478 runs in 13 innings for Guyana Amazon Warriors. He hit a match-winning fifty in the T20 final against Trinbago Knight Riders.

What makes Ayub special?

What has piqued the interest of experts is an unmistakable aspect of Ayub’s batting – flair.

It can be difficult to stand out in an era of utter batting dominance, but Ayub has no such issue. His fluent technique, strong wrist work and attractive strokeplay have raised hopes of a promising career. His penchant for ‘no-look’ hits over the fence off fast bowlers is particularly eye catching, and he is not afraid to pull them off even in red ball matches.

Whether he can make the cut at the highest level will be known over the coming months. The first Test begins in Perth on December 14, with the second Test in Melbourne (Boxing Day) and Sydney to host the New Year’s Test from January 3.

Updated: November 23, 2023, 4:54 AM