KARACHI: One of Pakistan’s most experienced and talented Test players, Asad Shafiq on Friday admitted that the batsmen should have performed well when the team needed them to in some of the key games that Pakistan lost recently against international teams.
“We have had some games, of late, where we should have delivered. We should have performed because we had the capability,” admitted Asad while talking to the media at the National Stadium. “There should be no excuses about not getting the ideal conditions. As batsmen, we have got a lot of catching up to do with the rest of the world cricket.”
Asad, however, also said that Pakistan doesn’t always struggle with the bat in key fixtures. “Yes, our batting struggles sometimes but it’s not always the case. Unfortunately, the kind of wickets on which we have been playing in Dubai, and not just us but everyone else, have struggled with the scoring rate due to slow pitches there,” said the 33-year-old.
“We always have neck-to-neck matches in Dubai. It’s not like we play slow overseas. We adapt to the conditions and play accordingly but, having said that, we know that we have to improve.”
Commenting on Misbah-ul-Haq’s appointment as the head coach and chief selector, Asad said: “Misbah’s appointment will have a positive effect on the team, especially on the batting unit. He is self-composed and doesn’t panic no matter how tense the situation. I have played with him. There were times when the pressure was mounting on me, but he controlled the situation well by remaining calm.”
“He is an experienced campaigner who has won a lot of games for Pakistan. I have learned a lot from him and this is a good opportunity, especially for the youngsters, to learn from his (Misbah’s) experience. He has played everywhere which is why he is in a better position to prepare the team accordingly,” said Asad.
On the fitness front, the right-handed batsman said: “We are working extremely hard on our fitness. We didn’t even touch bat or ball in the first seven days of our training camp. The entire focus was on the fitness sessions. We would have ground training in the morning and gym sessions in afternoon. We want to raise our fitness bar to an unprecedented level. Misbah himself is very fit. We know that our skill bar will only go up when we are fully fit.”
When asked what kind of wickets he is expecting for the next game, he said: “If you look at the scorecard of the previous game, you will see that the scoring rate of both the sides was more or less similar. The batsmen had lower strike rates because of the wicket being slow. But, the wicket that’s being prepared for the next game has some grass on it. We went to see it yesterday. So, we are hopeful that the pitch will play much better and assist the fast bowlers.”
He also said that we need to have more sporting wickets to make the first-class cricket better. “We have had wickets in the past in domestic games where 4-day games were wrapped up in two days. Sometimes, the wickets are slow to an extent that even one inning is not completed in four days. So, I think we should have a balanced wicket where there is something for everyone. Our first-class cricket will only get better when we have good sporting wickets and our players will also improve,” said Asad.
Sahibzada Farhan, the Balochistan captain, also spoke to the media and said: “We will have no pressure in the absence of our experienced players like Iftikhar Ahmed, Usman Shinwari and Mohammad Rizwan. Our bench strength is pretty good.”
“Since many of the players are returning to the domestic fold after playing white-ball cricket, it is going to take some time before they could adjust to playing red-ball cricket. I hope the wickets will also improve as the tournament progresses,” Farhan added.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019