We have prepared well and are raring to go, says Azhar

LAHORE: Pakistan Test captain Azhar Ali on Tuesday said though he has many inexperienced players in the side, they are extremely talented and showing lot of promise and will surely give tough time to England in the three-Test series starting from Wednesday at Old Trafford in Manchester.

While announcing 16 probables for the first Test in a presser held through video-link, Azhar replying to a question regarding unusual playing conditions owing to Covid-19, said: “Despite the challenging Covid-19 situation, all players are excited for the series with a positive frame of mind. The players have taken the situation in their stride and as Muslims are prepared to face it. We love cricket and we are going to play good cricket for which credit goes to both ECB and the PCB for arranging the series under these extraordinary circumstances.”

Speaking about lack of experience among his players, Azhar said: “As a cricketer you have to meet tough challenges. Yes we have some inexperienced bowlers and batsmen in the side, but they have tremendous talent and are proving their mettle. As cricketers you have to look at positive things and our last two series have been very good here in England. So that is the motivating force for us. We will bring further improvement in those performances.

“In batting, we have experienced batsmen like me, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Shan Masood and promising Abid Ali and we will go in with a strategy to give tough time to the opposition,” said Azhar. “And similarly, promising, young fast bowlers like Nasim Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi are improving a lot with every day.”

Azhar, who has played 78 Tests and needs just 81 runs to complete 6,000 runs in Test cricket, has confined himself to Test cricket after retiring from One-day International cricket three years ago.

MANCHESTER: Pakistan captain Azhar Ali speaks during an online media conference at Old Trafford on Tuesday.—PCB
MANCHESTER: Pakistan captain Azhar Ali speaks during an online media conference at Old Trafford on Tuesday.—PCB

“We have done our best preparations for the Test series as the boys put in good hard work, both in Worcester and later in Derby, and now the task ahead is to translate that hard work into the Tests,” he said.

To a question Azhar said that both openers Shan Masood and Abid Ali proved to be the best opening pair in the last home series and they would open in the first Test as well. “Though Imam-ul-Haq, as third available opener, has also been doing a lot of hard work and is improving but at the moment he has to wait in the wings.”

Asked if the experienced coaching staff of the Pakistan team had tried to impose their decisions on him as captain in anyway, Azhar said: “No. I am quite comfortable working with the coaches. They are trying to solve players’ problems by giving good guidelines and coaching.”

Azhar also admitted that his own performance lacked consistency but vowed to do his best to overcome that with good scores in the series.

“My performance has not been consistent and as a top player I am not happy with it. But I am working hard and that should pay off,” said Azharwho has led Pakistan in only five Test matches, with one victory, three defeats and a drawn game under his belt.

“It is an important series and I and Asad Shafiq fully realise that being the most experienced batsmen, we have to perform.”

Azhar observed that the last series between England and the West Indies proved that the role of spinners was quite vital and if Pakistan’s batsmen set a good total on the board, Pakistan had good bowling resources in both spin and fast bowling to defend it.

“Yasir Shah is our match winner and as spinner his role is very important. After watching the playing conditions, we will decide either to go with one or two spinners,” he said.