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January 23, 2021

Tackling South African bowlers will be a challenge: Azhar

Sports

January 23, 2021

KARACHI: Former Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali on Friday termed the quality bowling of South Africa a big challenge for the home team’s batsmen in the Test series which will begin here at the National Stadium from January 26.

“It would be a good challenge for our batsmen to play against top quality bowling of South Africa,” Azhar told a virtual news conference. “The visitors’ fast bowling is strong. They also have experienced left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj in their side. They have all their bases covered. We will have to bring in our best game against them,” he said.

“We should get advantage of the home conditions. It’s very important to win a home series as people expect that from the team,” said Azhar, who is the most experienced member of the side.

“We are confident that our batting line-up will perform. Babar has also come back after injury. In home conditions players shine. On tours of England and New Zealand, too, some of our batsmen scored centuries. We are not far behind. Asian nations always face issues in those conditions but we fought there and it’s a positive thing,” Azhar said.

He was confident that he as the most senior batsman would carry on his form in home conditions. “I am in top form. The best thing is that I feel confident when I go to the crease. I will try to continue the same form against South Africa and will try to score runs,” said Azhar, who has scored 6302 runs in 83 Tests at an average of 42.87, having hit 17 centuries and 32 fifties.

In December 2019, Azhar hit 118 in the Test against Sri Lanka here at National Stadium which Pakistan won by 263 runs. He scored fine 93 in the first innings of Christchurch Test against New Zealand recently which Pakistan lost by a big margin of an innings and 176 runs.

He advised young players inducted in the side for the Test series to play positive cricket. “International cricket is always a challenge for new players as they also feel a sort of insecurity in case they fail to click. Besides this there is a huge gap between our domestic and international cricket. The youth should rely on their skills, take the moment with positive intent, avoid going towards negatives and enjoy their game,” Azhar said.

“In our culture, very little time is given to a player. Many players are dropped after just one or two games. I think this culture should be changed,” he was quick to add.

Pakistan have announced nine uncapped players in the initial 20-man side which will be slashed to final 16 before the first Test.

About his batting position, Azhar said: “As a senior player I can say that a batsman should have a particular position at which he should bat. I have always tried to act according to the team’s plans and management’s request as far as my position as a batsman is concerned. And if you play your role as per the team’s plans that’s always satisfactory. Sometimes team’s plans have to be changed and every player should be prepared for that.”

Responding to a question, he said his chats with coaches have always been comfortable. “Every player has a bad patch. Sometimes, players fail to score even one run. We have Younis and Misbah and I trust them. They know me and I also share with them when I feel some problems in batting,” he said.

Before taking questions Azhar said in his brief statement that it was a welcome sign that a major Test-playing nation had come to Pakistan. “It’s a moment of great happiness that a major side has come to Pakistan. Every team wants to play at home. It’s a big occasion for the youngsters who will get a chance to make their debut in home conditions,” he said.

He said training sessions went well. “We have conducted two good training sessions and three to four are ahead,” Azhar said. “The sessions were lengthy because these were conducted in a match-scenario by utilising the centre field. Bowlers will have to bowl a huge number of overs in Tests. It’s just conditioning as the Test is very near. Slowly the training duration will be reduced,” he said. Azhar parried the question about his removal from the captaincy following the series against England last summer.