RAWALPINDI: Pakistan will go into the upcoming three-match home Test series against England with a new-look pace attack, but that would not necessarily play into the hands of the visitors, according to their head coach Brendon McCullum.
With pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi out due to a knee injury and Hasan Ali dropped, Pakistan’s fast-bowling arsenal will feature at least one debutant when the series kicks off here at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
Barring young right-armer Naseem Shah and pace all-rounder Faheem Ashraf, all fast bowlers in the Pakistan squad — Mohammad Wasim Jr., Haris Rauf and Mohammad Ali — are yet to play a Test.
For McCullum, the lack of experience in Pakistan’s pace ranks will not be taken lightly.
“You look at their team sheet and you see talent... you see some that might not be developed talent, but it’s talent,” he said while addressing a press conference at the first Test’s venue on Monday.
“You need to respect that, and you need to find a way to be able to be well-researched and well-planned about what’s going to come at you.”
The former New Zealand skipper believed the hosts’ squad had the capability to challenge an in-form England side, which recorded series wins over New Zealand and South Africa at home earlier this year.
“It’s a very good Pakistan squad, it’s well-rounded,” said McCullum, under who England have won six out of seven Tests.
“It’s got some experience and some youth — with both batting and bowling — and they’ll be a tough challenge.
“We know we’ll have to play well if we’re going to be successful.”
Shaheen’s absence, McCullum said, will be felt by Pakistan nonetheless. The England coach, who has played alongside Shaheen in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Pakistan Super League with Lahore Qalandars was full of praise for the left-armer.
“I know him pretty well. He’s a wonderful bowler and he’s turned into a fine leader for Pakistani cricket,” McCullum said. “Shaheen’s obviously a big loss.”
England, too, will be without express pacer Mark Wood, at least for the first Test, with the right-armer nursing a hip injury. However, the experience of veteran fast-bowler James Anderson and captain and all-rounder will help the visitors.
McCullum warned his side will continue to play the brand of cricket they put on display against New Zealand and South Africa — the coach’s only experience with the side so far.
That would mean England will simply look to attack to win matches. Respecting the conditions would be important, McCullum said, but that would not change his players’ approach.
“We’ll certainly be pushing for results because we see it as our obligation to try and ensure that people walk away entertained,” said the 41-year-old.
“And if we get beat, Pakistan, we know, will have played well.
“I expect us to play well and if we get outplayed, that’s okay too. Looking forward to the opportunity, looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to the hospitality. And hopefully in a few weeks time everyone will say this has been an amazing series.”
The second and third Tests will be played in Multan (Dec 9-13) and Karachi (Dec 17-21).
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022
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