Pakistan will give tough competition to Australia: Asad


"One can never foretell but I think the bowlers in the squad this time have potential to surprise the Australians," says Asad Shafiq. — AFP/File
"One can never foretell but I think the bowlers in the squad this time have potential to surprise the Australians," says Asad Shafiq. — AFP/File

KARACHI: Senior batsman Asad Shafiq expressed the hope on Sunday that Pakistan would compete with Australia despite their wretched Test record Down Under.

Speaking to reporters during an open media session at the National Stadium, the 33-year-old right-hander said Pakistan may had not won any series in Australia but had opportunities from time to time to beat the Australians in their own backyard.

“The last time we were there Pakistan almost scored a famous victory in the day/night series opener in Brisbane,” Asad, who stood out in that game with a superlative career-best knock of 137, reminisced. “In the end we lost by just 39 runs, and if luck had sided with us, who knows the outcome of the last series would have been a different story.”

Pakistan, who were captained by current head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, suffered a 3-0 whitewash during the previous tour in 2016-17 as Steve Smith-led side went on to win the remaining two Tests in Melbourne — where newly-appointed skipper Azhar Ali carried his bat in the first innings with 205 — and Sydney.

In fact, Australia had won each of the last four home series of three Tests against Pakistan beginning from 1999-2000 when Steve Waugh led them. In the subsequent rubbers in 2004-05 and 2009-10 Ricky Ponting captained the home team. Pakistan have only managed to defeat the Australians Down Under just four times, with their last success coming way back in 1995-96 when Wasim Akram skippered his side to 74-run victory.

“There is no doubt the conditions in Australia are generally foreign for any visiting team, more so for countries in our region. The pitches there are true and hard at most venues. The Gabba favours fast bowling and if our bowlers bowl in the right areas, then there is hope for us,” Asad said. “On the last trip, the bowling more than batting let Pakistan down because the wicket-taking option was almost negligible despite the fact we had several experienced bowlers.

“One can never foretell but I think the bowlers in the squad this time have potential to surprise the Australians. Nasim Shah, for instance, has the ability to rattle them and for someone just 16, it is amazing to see him generate fearsome speed as we found out during last week’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy match in Faisalabad when the Sindh batsmen faced this youngster.

“Nasim troubled all of us with his speed and lateral movement throughout the game [during which he claimed nine wickets and almost sealed victory for Central Punjab]. I’ve no doubt in saying that he [Nasim] could be a X-factor for Pakistan in the upcoming Test series.”

Meanwhile, Asad — who has accumulated 4323 runs in 69 Tests at an average of 39.94 with 12 centuries and 23 half-centuries since his debut in 2010-11 — candidly admitted the batting responsibility on his shoulders have increased since the legendary Younis Khan and Misbah retired in 2017.

“Azhar and I are the most experienced batsmen in the Test side, and there are huge responsibilities on us to carry given that Pakistan have struggled to post big totals in recent times. Unfortunately, this is something we are still trying to rectify since Younis and Misbah retired,” Asad conceded. “One only can hope to succeed if everything goes well for you. The good thing is that we will go into the [Australian] series with fair amount of competitive matches since our domestic season is in full swing since the middle of September.”

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2019