England coach Brendon McCullum on Monday said the absence of fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi through injury was a “huge loss” for Pakistan in the three-match Test series starting this week.
The slender left-arm tackler – Pakistan’s main wicket-taker in all three formats – has been ruled out of the series following a knee injury sustained during Twenty20 Globalism The Australian Cup final earlier this month.
The 22-year-old had his appendix removed earlier this month.
England trained for the first time at Rawalpindi Stadium on Monday, a day after they arrived in Pakistan for their first Test tour since 2005.
The first test starts on Thursday.
McCollum said Shaheen has made great progress since playing the fast bowler and then coaching him through the first two editions of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in 2016 and 2017.
“I know him very well. He’s a great bowler and he’s turned out to be a good captain for Pakistan cricket,” McCollum said at a press conference.
Shaheen is obviously a big loss.
In his absence, Pakistan will rely on youngster Naseem Shah as well as Muhammad Wasim Jr. and Haris Rauf – who have yet to play at Test level.
But McCollum praised Pakistan’s talent for fast bowling.
“You look at their team sheet and you see talent… you see some who may not be a developed talent, but they are talent.
“You need to respect that, and you need to find a way to be able to be very thoughtful and well planned about what is going to happen to you.”
England were due to visit Pakistan last year but withdrew a week after New Zealand gave up their limited series series on security grounds minutes before the first match.
They then rescheduled the tour in two stages, having visited Pakistan in the Twenty20 series two months earlier.
And McCollum, who managed the England national team last year, admitted Pakistan would be strong on home soil.
“It’s a very good Pakistani squad, a good team,” said McCollum, under whose captaincy England won six out of seven Tests.
“I’ve got some experience and some youth – both with batting and bowling – and they’re going to be a tough challenge.
“We know we’ll have to play well if we’re going to be successful.”
The second Test is in Multan (9-13 December) and the third in Karachi (17-21 December).