LAHORE: Intensity and aggression is what Shaun Tait wants to inject in Pakistan’s pace attack as the former Australian quick kicks off his 12-month stint as the national side’s fast-bowling coach.
With the three-match Test series between Pakistan and Australia on level terms after an unexciting draw in Rawalpindi and a thrilling stalemate in Karachi, Tait has joined the hosts’ squad just ahead of the decider in Lahore after his arrival was delayed due to the passing away of his father.
The first two Tests saw Pakistan’s pace battery of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah — in the first Test — and Shaheen and Hasan Ali in the second, struggle to make an impact.While agreeing that the playing surfaces in Rawalpindi and Karachi weren’t conducive for the fast bowlers, Tait seemed to have clarity about the job he has to do with the group.
”I want to keep the intensity and aggression high in the Pakistan camp during his one-year stint as bowling coach,” Tait said during an online press conference on Saturday.
“Their intensity and their aggression are going to be a big part of fast bowling, it has to be.
“I have no specific task but to keep the ball rolling.”
The Karachi Test saw Australian pacers Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins run through the Pakistan batters, bundling them out for a paltry 148-run total in the first innings before the hosts bounced back historically in the second.The visiting fast bowlers seemed to have got assistance from reverse swing in the dry and hot conditions in the raging metropolis. In contrast to their Australian counterparts, Shaheen and Hasan couldn’t pose much of a threat to the opponent batters.
For Tait, who joined the Pakistan camp in Karachi towards the end of the Test, reverse swing did not play as big of a role as it looked like at the National Stadium. Once a super-quick right-armer, Tait believed Pakistan’s pacers did well in the match on surfaces which were difficult to bowl on.
“I don’t think they struggled at all, they bowled quite well,” Tait said.
“Due to the wickets, its been a tough going for the fast bowlers, it has been a real grind for both teams as we’ve seen in the results.
“And that is sometimes the way it is in Test cricket.”
SMITH PRAISES BABAR
The grind was surely real for Australia in the fourth innings of the Karachi Test, when Cummins’ men failed to bowl out Pakistan despite giving them a 506-run target.
The hosts batted for nearly two days to save what turned out to be a historic match. However, Pakistan’s hero was their skipper Babar Azam, who stood on the crease for 603 minutes to score 196 runs.
Babar’s innings broke several long-standing records with the 27-year-old receiving praise from all over the cricketing world.
Australian batter Steve Smith, one of the best in the business, also didn’t shy away from appreciating Babar’s “exceptional” ton and his ability to negotiate with a high-quality bowling attack on a deteriorating Karachi surface.
“I thought he played our spinners so well,” said the 84-Test veteran.
“Everything seemed to get the middle of the bat until the one that he got out on.”
Smith also applauded Pakistan wicket-keeper batter Mohammad Rizwan and opener Abdullah Shafique for assisting Babar to stage the memorable comeback.
While Rizwan scored a counterpunching 100, Abdullah showed his ability to stay compact and focused in his 96-run contribution.Abdullah, however, could have walked out early into his innings had Smith collected a routine, waist-height catch at first slip off Cummins.
The former Australia skipper admitted he was gutted about making the mistake but also pointed out how the pitch’s behaviour posed a challenge to the fielders as well.
“It has been a real challenge, I have never stood as close to the bat in my life in any conditions,” Smith said.
“There has just been no bounce in the wicket, so part of our plan is to ensure that the ball carries as much as possible.”
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2022