Pakistan’s tour of England this summer is not going to be an easy one.
After their triumph over Sri Lanka, the home side will be brimming with confidence and Pakistan’s players will have their work cut out for them.
It was hoped – and is still hoped – that the second half of whatever goes by the term ‘the British summer’ will be better than the first.
But if the weather is to look and feel anything like summer, it better buck up soon.
The temperature has rarely gone over 23C so far, most of the time hovering below the 20C mark, and sunshine has been a rare commodity.
Under such conditions batting is not going to be easy, and England has a top class seam attack which is bound to exploit conditions to the full.
Batting is not Pakistan’s strongest suite by any stretch of imagination and the fact that we do not really have an established opening pair will make the task even more difficult.
Hafeez is experienced but, let’s face it, his technique is not that of an opener in conditions where the ball is moving in the air as well as off the pitch.
We also have an inordinately long tail which effectively starts at number eight and I fear that the effects of that will tell.
Modern teams expect their lower-order batsmen to support their middle-order but that has not happened with Pakistan in the recent past and one sees no reason for optimism on this front now.
Pakistan’s strength decidedly is its bowling attack which will be spearheaded by Mohammad Amir who is undoubtedly a world class bowler and whose pairing with leg-spinner Yasir Shah could pose serious problems for England’s batsmen. But Amir will have to be mentally very strong.
It is widely expected that he will catch a fair amount of flak from the public and whatever else he does, he must not respond or let that get under his skin in any way.
The attitude of the media towards him also remains to be seen but here again, one should not be holding out any great hopes because over the past two decades, Pakistan teams touring England have had greater hostility from the media than even their opponents.
Given the happenings that took place the last time Pakistan toured this country and the presence of Amir in the line-up, which will be a visible reminder of those very unpleasant events, comments in the media can be expected to be hostile.
This will also be a test for Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, given the remarks attributed to him in the media about Pakistan’s alleged involvement in match-fixing.
Sooner rather than later, this issue is bound to come up and the new coach would be well advised to be prepared with some convincing answers.
I am also less than sure to what extent Arthur may be able to help Pakistani batsmen with the problems they will almost certainly face; perhaps a top former Pakistani batsman like Mohammad Yousuf accompanying the side as a batting coach might have been helpful, although I do believe that by the time you have graduated to be playing the game at this level, it is the player himself who should be his own best coach, learning through his mistakes.
As I said, Pakistan’s bowling is its strength but this will have to be supplemented by support from the field.
It is heartening to be told that this is perhaps the fittest Pakistani side ever and although that is certainly a plus point, fitness alone does not automatically translate into increased cricketing skills.
If the ball is seaming around, as it well may, slip fielding will be an increasingly important element in overall cricketing performance.
I am sure the team management knows this and will have worked on this aspect.
One big plus point for the side is that for the first time in quite a while, the leadership of the team is in the hands of a mature, sensible and calm cricketer who is respected by all and sundry.
Misbah has been an outstanding servant of Pakistan cricket and under him, the side has the best chance of not just giving its best on the field of play, but of representing the country in a positive manner and of hopefully erasing some of the stigma that was attached to Pakistan cricket during the last tour.
That may be a more important aspect of this tour than the actual cricketing results and what you see on the scorecard.
The writer is a former Pakistan captain
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2016