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Shan seeks to rewrite history in Australia

November 30, 2023

LAHORE: Newly appointed skipper Shan Masood set Pakistan a tough target on Wednesday for their forthcoming tour of Australia —make history.

Pakistan have never won a Test series in the 12 times they have toured down under, with the south Asian side losing the last 14 five-dayers in a row there. But Shan, 34, who took over the Test side after Babar Azam relinquished the captaincy in all formats of cricket following Pakistan’s disastrous World Cup campaign, sees an opportunity.

Pakistan Test captain Shan Masood addresses a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore ahead of the Australia Tour on Nov 29, 2023. —x/TheRealPCB
Pakistan Test captain Shan Masood addresses a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore ahead of the Australia Tour on Nov 29, 2023. —x/TheRealPCB

“When you have not achieved something in history, then you have an opportunity to change it,” he told a news conference in Lahore ahead of the team’s departure. “So we will make an effort to produce positive results for Pakistan and for the World Test championship.”

Pakistan are on the top of World Test Championship 2023-25 cycle with wins in both Tests against Sri Lanka, while India are second and Australia third on the nine-team table. But Australia are flying high after winning the last cycle of the championship and lifting the 50-over World Cup earlier this month.

The Test series starts with the first match in Perth from December 14, followed by Melbourne (December 26-30), and Sydney (January 3-7). Pakistan lost both Tests by an innings margin during their last tour — a series Shan was part of.

“We need to score 400 and then take 20 wickets,” said Shan of what was required. “We did not do that on our last tour in 2019, so that is the goal.”

Shan admitted Australia would be high on confidence. “The positive thing will be to have the belief to play well, and all those playing contribute to give Australia some tough times.”

Shan insisted the tourists had prepared well for this series. “We tried to replicate the Australian conditions in our training camp in Rawalpindi, which has a bouncy pitch,” he said.

He also hailed the appointment of former England skipper Adam Hollioake, who coaches in Australia, as the team’s new batting coach. “Teams hire people who have local knowledge, and he is an expert of Australian conditions so his appointment will help us to apply ourselves in those conditions.”

He also backed his predecessor Azam to have a big tour, saying the team’s batting “will go around him”. “We want to play the type of cricket that our fans enjoy — a good and fighting brand,” he said.

“I have been fortunate enough to get captaincy opportunities in my career. Getting the Multan Sultans captaincy under Andy Flower really helped me. I look at it as a turning point in my career. Similarly, working with Derbyshire and Yorkshire really helped me. Especially Yorkshire, as there was lots going on there off the field as well so I learnt how to lead a dressing room [during crisis], which I think may help me a lot in my new assignment,” he said. Shan said that the settled team would see minimal changes, focusing on maintaining a balance between batting and bowling strength. “We will not be making many changes to the settled team. When the team is settled, you only make changes if conditions or injuries demand it. We may drop a spinner to play an extra batter but we have to keep in mind that you need five bowlers to take 20 wickets in a Test match so our priority would be fielding a team that can score runs and take 20 wickets in each game.”

Shan acknowledged the experience of veteran players like Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed. He stated, “I have a really good relationship with Babar Azam, on and off the field. We have a long working history as we have played together for a very long time. We have batted together in both in domestic and national level cricket. Babar is a valuable part of the team’s leadership group and his insight to the team is immeasurable, as is his batting. Sarfraz Ahmed has been one of the most successful captains and wicket-keepers of Pakistan. His presence in the team is very important.”

Shan acknowledged the absence of fast bowler Haris Rauf but expressed confidence in the available pacers. In response to questions about his category D central contract, he said that representing Pakistan was the top priority, irrespective of contract categories. —With input from agencies.