Azhar underscores strong self-belief during England tour

Published June 1, 2016
LAHORE: Asad Shafiq bats during a practice session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.—M.Arif/White Star
LAHORE: Asad Shafiq bats during a practice session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.—M.Arif/White Star

LAHORE: Giving a mixed reaction about the upcoming England tour, Test vice-captain Azhar Ali on Tuesday held out hope that despite all adversities at the challenging England tour the national team would throw up a better performance through self-belief.

Talking to reporters before the start of the second day of the short training camp organized ahead of the England tour here at the Gaddafi Stadium, the vice-captain said: “The tour of England has always had its own challenges but a strong self-belief will help us overcome all issues at the tour.”

The Pakistan team will be announced this week for the tour of England wherein Pakistan will play four Tests and five ODIs besides a one-off T20. Two ODIs against Ireland will also be played at the end of the four-Test series.

Azhar admitted that Pakistan’s ODI team had recently suffered defeats but was quick to add that the Test team under the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq had been performing well for the last couple of years.

“We have a very well-settled Test side and will try our best to press ahead with good performance in this format,” Azhar commented while stating that captain Misbah and veteran batsman Younis Khan’s presence had given a boost to the middle order.

“Plus, we have several quality fast bowlers apart from world’s best spinners in Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar,” the vice-captain further said.

Talking about English conditions, Azhar said that Pakistan spin bowlers may put English batsmen in trouble, “particularly if the ball started turning on the third and fourth days.”

“On the other hand, heavy forecast will definitely help our pacers including Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali and others perform better in the Test series,” remarked the top-order batsman who shrugged off England’s recent Test series win against Sri Lanka, saying Pakistan had always given tough time to England.

“In 2010, Pakistan had a rather young side but it performed well despite all odds. Now some players of that team would also be going with a lot of experience,” said Azhar who categorically stated that English batsmen had always been vulnerable against Pakistan’s bowling attack.

Answering a question about fast bowler Amir’ visit to England in the wake of the notorious spot-fixing saga, Azhar said in case of any controversy created against Amir by the English media or crowd the entire team would tackle it as a one unit.

Nonetheless, he said everyone should forget bad memories of the past and enjoy cricket.

AZHAR Ali gestures during a media conference on Tuesday.—White Star
AZHAR Ali gestures during a media conference on Tuesday.—White Star

The PCB is yet to get British visa for Amir despite special efforts made in this regard.

On the other hand, the vice-captain said that Amir had gelled well as he had also played World T20 apart from touring New Zealand earlier this year.

Team’s performance mainly depended on senior players but everyone had to take responsibility to perform well, Azhar further said while hoping that everything would go according to plans.

The vice-captain also hoped that injured opener Mohammad Hafeez would go with the national team but said that if a particular player was not available any batsman could be tested at any place.

He avoided answering a question whether or not the ouster of batsmen Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal was a blessing. “We should now move ahead as the decision about both Shehzad and Umar has already been taken,” he said.

Azhar said the new head coach Micky Arthur had had his input in the ongoing training camp wherein special emphasis was put on adjusting to the English conditions.

“Hard pitches have been prepared and Duke balls are being used in practice sessions with bowlers delivering with special instruction while batsmen are batting for an hour in the nets,” he commented.

Also, the top-order batsman appreciated military’s effort in helping players raise their fitness bar during the boot camp held in Abbottabad.

He said Misbah was a very aggressive captain, adding that it was Misbah’s ability that helped Pakistan win many matches even on dead pitches.

Azhar said that Misbah was a role model for the entire Pakistan team, adding that the Test captain was among top finishers during the boot camp.

“Misbah is the most successful captain of Pakistan and we will try our best to give him more wins in future,” he further said.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2016

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