PAKISTAN’S Babar Azam bats in the nets during a practice session at Manuka Oval on Monday.—courtesy PCB
PAKISTAN’S Babar Azam bats in the nets during a practice session at Manuka Oval on Monday.—courtesy PCB

CANBERRA: After unceremonously stepping down as Pakistan’s all-format captain following the team’s dismal show in the 50-over World Cup, Babar Azam is helping his successor Shan Masood with his experience and expertise, former skipper Sarfraz Ahmed said on Monday.

The Pakistan squad is in Australia nowadays, preparing for the upcoming three-match Test series against the hosts at the Manuka Oval, where the team will also play a four-day practice match against the Australian Prime Minister’s XI from Wednesday.

“Babar is playing a significant role as I’ve witnessed during the training camp, he stays very much involved, especially with the team’s plans along with Shan,” Sarfraz told reporters at the venue. “I think it’s a great sign that a former captain is helping the team.”

The matches against Australia will be Pakistan’s second series of the 2023-25 World Test Championship cycle, in which the side got off to a flying start with a 2-0 series win against Sri Lanka in July under Babar’s captaincy.

Pakistan have not won a Test match in Australia since 1995 and if they are to change history under Shan’s leadership, it will require a something special from the team.

Sarfraz believed Pakistan had it in them to do so.

“Our team is a settled team in both the batting and bowling departments,” he noted. “We want to play good cricket against a quality team in Australia and we are hoping for the best.”

Pakistan will be without pace sensation Naseem Shah, who was lethal with his reverse swing against the Sri Lankans, but is currently ailing a shoulder injury.

To counter Naseem’s absence, Pakistan named as many as seven fast bowlers in their 18-member squad, which also includes pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi and a seasoned player in Hasan Ali.

The selectors have also added domestic first class high-performers in Mir Hamza, Khurram Shehzad and Aamer Jamal in the roster.

“Shaheen and Hasan are exceptional, and we have the likes of Mir Hamza, Khurram Shehzad, and Fahim, who have proven their mettle in domestic competitions,” Sarfraz noted.

Pakistan and Australia will kick off the series with the first Test in Sydney from Dec. 14, before they clash in Melbourne and Sydney.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2023

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