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Pakistan getting less number of Test matches, says Azhar Ali

Updated April 12, 2018

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PAKISTAN cricketers jog during a training session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday. —M.Arif/White Star
PAKISTAN cricketers jog during a training session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday. —M.Arif/White Star

LAHORE: While noting that Pakistan have been playing relatively less number of Test matches in recent times, experienced batsman Azhar Ali on Wednesday said all players, including seniors, would have to share responsibility in the tough Test series in England.

“Yes Pakistan is getting less number of Test matches, [whereas] we should be playing more, as the five-day game improves your cricket,” Azhar told reporters on a question regarding less number of Tests Pakistan have been playing of late.

The 33-year-old top-order batsman was speaking to media on the opening day of the national camp for probables here at the Gaddafi Stadium ahead of Pakistan’s tour to Ireland and England starting next month.

Pakistan last featured in a Test more than six months ago — Oct 6-10 to be exact — when they played against Sri Lanka at Dubai in the final Test of a two-match rubber.

These Tests against Sri Lanka came, following a gap of four and a half months, after Pakistan faced the West Indies in an away two-Test series in April-May 2017.

“We are playing Test cricket after a considerable gap of six to seven months. However, we have got good time to prepare, both in Pakistan as well as in England. If the weather remains fine, we will get good number of days before we face Ireland [in the one-ff Test match],” he said.

Pakistan are scheduled to play their next Test from May 11-15 against Ireland, who would be featuring in their inaugural five-day game, at Dublin. Pakistan then clash with England for a short two-Test battle starting with the first match at Lord’s on May 24.

On their last tour to England in 2017, Azhar recalled, Pakistan had reached the destination some 25 days before the start of the ICC Champions Trophy, adding the move paid rich dividends. Pakistan, then eighth in ICC ODI rankings, from nowhere stunned the cricketing world by clinching the prestigious Trophy outplaying arch-rivals India in the high-pressure final at The Oval.

In Test matches however, Pakistan of late have been found wanting. They were swept clean by Sri Lanka 2-0 in the UAE last year, their first Test campaign under Sarfraz Ahmed.

On what he was expecting in the Test series in England, when leg-spinner Yasir Shah and opener Shan Masood (both injured) were not available, Azhar said everybody had their role to play.

“Obviously, the pressure is on senior members of the team and [considering this] I will try to come up to the team’s expectations. Having said this, there is responsibility on everyone and every member has to back each other to get better results,” the 62-Test veteran stressed.

After the retirement of veteran batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan the responsibility on seniors had increased, noted Azhar.

“Though Pakistan lost two Test matches to Sri Lanka [in the UAE], there were some positives too in that series; Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq produced some excellent knocks under tough conditions,” Azhar said.

Personally, Azhar said, he was seeking to score a century at Lord’s — which is one of the primary desires of every cricketer — while steering Pakistan to victory.

To a question, he said Yasir’s absence was a major loss for Pakistan noting the leg-spinner had been playing vital role in the team’s victories particularly against England.

Speaking on Ireland, Azhar said, “They are a good side. They have beaten us in ODI cricket in the past. I congratulate them on getting the Test status and hope they would be good opponents in this format too.”

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018