It goes without saying that Australia is a very challenging place to tour. It is arguably toughest of all the countries along with South Africa because of the bounce and pace in the wickets. Maybe that is why no Asian side has ever won a Test series at these two places and that will be a huge motivation for us. Many great Pakistan teams have been to these shores before but left without winning so our goal in this series will be to conquer an unchartered territory. I feel this team has the potential to be the first Pakistan side to win a Test series in Australia.
It has been a good experience to arrive here a couple of weeks before the series starts. It was also good to have a practice match in Cairns but the conditions there were totally different from what we are going to get in Brisbane. The pitch there was little slow and less bouncy whereas the opposition was very inexperienced. But it gave our batsmen and bowlers an opportunity to spend time on the field and train under the lights which will surely benefit us.
We needed to practice with pink balls too and the ball swung much more in our tour match in Cairns against the Cricket Australia XI than it did in Dubai where we hosted West Indies for a day-night Test couple of months ago. In the UAE, there was no swing when the ball was new nor was there any when we bowled under lights. But in Australia, even in the net sessions that we’ve had at the Gabba, we noticed substantial swing, which could be due to the extra couple of coatings of lacquer on the balls used here. It is a good sign for our bowlers, as they benefited from that swing in the match at Cazaly’s Stadium.
Our team has produced wonderful performances in the last five years. We understand that we have not been at our very best in the last three Tests but I feel the team is determined to bounce back. They are hurt by the recent series defeat in New Zealand. But we can look at it positively, as the side now feels more determined to show that we are one of the better Test sides in the world. Everyone is working hard and badly wants to get back to winning ways. There isn’t a better place than Australia to start winning.
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Teams go through bad phases and we are trying our best to get out of it quickly. Our batsmen had been our strength and have done so well in recent years but, regrettably, most of them have lost form at the same time. This been the major reason behind our last three defeats. Every batsman though is capable of a strong comeback.
We had to make a few changes to our batting order in England but if you look at the current team, only Azhar Ali is batting out of his original position from there. Azhar has proven his worth as an opening batsman by the number of runs he’s scored; just look at the triple-century he scored under lights in Dubai earlier this year. If Azhar hadn’t moved up to open, then we would have to leave out Babar Azam. He’s an excellent talent and showed his worth in the New Zealand series.
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The lack of runs from the middle-order where Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmad and myself bat has affected us more than anything else and we all are very eager to score runs against Australia. I know it will be difficult but we are all very experienced and have successfully passed such challenges in the past. Younis was under pressure during the England tour this year too, but came back strongly with a match-winning double-hundred at the Oval. We know he’s capable of these kinds of knocks and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got amongst the runs against Australia out here.
We just need to not repeat past mistakes. I myself played a few rash shots this year but I will be more careful now. I feel our batting will come out as a potent force after going through the challenges in New Zealand. We have had ample time to adjust to the conditions and we will have a better mind set in the coming series.
Australia is an exciting and challenging team and a very tough team to beat at home so we are expecting an interesting series against them. Although they have some new talented faces in the team, the inexperience is something that we can look to exploit. I don’t have any doubt in their abilities but their inexperience, especially in the batting department, can be exploited by the opposition as South Africa did in Hobart. But we should also keep in mind that they came back strongly in the last Test in Adelaide and also clean-swept New Zealand in the recent one-day series.
Australia have some really good, and now experienced, fast-bowlers in Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. They can be very difficult in their home conditions. In fact I feel every player in the Australian team is capable of doing something special due to the challenges they go through in junior ranks. Jackson Bird bowled well against South Africa and our team analyst showed me a cricket.com.au video of Chadd Sayers’ bowling (watch below) who I reckon is a bright prospect, He has very good control of his line and length. So we are aware of the challenges that the Australians offer.
But our bowlers have gelled together nicely too and, as everybody knows, have the potential to take 20 wickets. We have good variety in our attack and each of the bowlers can be lethal and produce a match-winning spell on his day. Our leg-spinner Yasir Shah has recovered from the injury and bowled without any trouble in the nets. In the next two days he will be even fitter. Australia is a place where he’s really looking forward to testing himself.
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Mickey Arthur’s knowledge of the Australian team will also benefit us. It matters a lot if you have someone in your camp who is aware of the psyche of the players you’re coming up against and has some inside knowledge about their strengths and weaknesses. It is obvious that Mickey’s experience will help us in making strategies.
However, at end of the day what matters the most is how you implement your strategies in games. So to win this series we have to be at our very best when are on the field. We are up for the challenge and, as I mentioned, I want to be first Asian side to win in Australia. That is the goal that we have set as a team.
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