Players need to motivate each other in absence of fans, urges Mushtaq

11 Jul 2020

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WORCESTER: Pakistan spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed (L) in a discussion with Imad Wasim (C) and Yasir Shah during a practice session at New Road on Friday.—Courtesy PCB
WORCESTER: Pakistan spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed (L) in a discussion with Imad Wasim (C) and Yasir Shah during a practice session at New Road on Friday.—Courtesy PCB

WORCESTER: Players will have to motivate each other in absence of any spectators in cricket’s post-coronavirus reality, Pakistan spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed has said while quarantining with the team in England ahead of a three-Test series next month.

Playing behind closed doors is one of the many conditions the game has reluctantly accepted before international cricket resumed on Wednesday with England’s home series against West Indies.

Taking on England in August, Pakistan would have traditionally enjoyed strong support from diaspora living there, but not this time as the matches will be played in a bio-secure environment.

“There are no spectators, there are hardly any journalists either to analyse the teams or the game. Players need to inspire each other, back each other and support each other to the hilt,” Mushtaq told the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) website.

While quarantining in bio-secure environment at Worcester’s New Road Ground, the Test team under Azhar Ali are also getting used to the game’s new protocols, including a ban on using saliva to shine the ball.

“Despite the Covid-19 related challenges, the players have been exceptional so far,” Mushtaq said. “We are trying to make them familiar with the protocols and they have responded wonderfully well. Players are coping with the new regulations with regards to shining the ball as well.

“Historically, spinners have used saliva to shine the ball, now they are being taught new methods...” said the former Test spinner. “we are happy with the start we have made; we are getting accustomed to the environment and conditions and still have a long time to go before the start of the series.”

During the quarantine period, the players are undergoing fitness training, net practice, fielding sessions and intra-squad matches under the supervision of a high-profile coaching staff led by head coach Misbah-ul-Haq.

Bowling coach Waqar Younis and batting coach Younis Khan are working hard on the players in their respective domains while the reins of spin bowling coaching are in the hands Mushtaq.

Mushtaq has worked around the world with leading international teams and T20 franchises in a coaching/mentor capacity while he was also a part of the team management during the absorbing 2016 series in England, which Pakistan drew 2-2 under Misbah’s captaincy.

“What makes me really happy is that the players and support staff are working together on team goals and objectives and I am sure in due course the players will be fully aware and ready for the new challenges as we prepare for what is expected to be a tough series against a strong English team in their own backyard,” Mushtaq concluded. “We have the players that can not only compete but also win the series.”

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2020