Pakistan Test Captain Misbah-ul-Haq has called on his team to gear up for the mighty task his team will undertake come Thursday.
Pakistan, who are preparing for their first Test series on English soil in six years, will take on the Alastair Cook-led England side in a four-Test match series.
Aware of the significance of a series win in England, Misbah asked his team to rise for “their biggest challenge in a long time” during an interview with cricket news website.
After a spot-fixing marred Pakistan’s tour of England in 2010, the two sides have contested twice in the longest format in last six years with Pakistan securing comprehensive series wins — 3-0 in 2012 and 2-0 in 2015 — in United Arab Emirates.
However, Misbah, Pakistan’s most successful Test captain, termed a series win in England “the point they had to prove” to wash the six-year-old stains.
“This is the biggest challenge for us in a long time,” Misbah said during the Investec Test series launch at Lord’s Cricket Ground. “This is the best chance for us ─ and me as a captain ─ to perform here, especially in these conditions.
“To perform in England, Australia, even South Africa, these are the tours where you really develop your team.
The 2010 tour, I think, was a tough tour, but guys like Azhar Ali did well in tough conditions and situations, and that makes you a better player.”
The 42-year-old stressed the need for batsmen to put up decent scores in order to give bowlers something to defend.
“If you can put good scores on the board, the Pakistan seam attack is good… we really have to stand up as a batting unit and give them good scores.”
Pakistan’s bowling attack is tagged as the best in the world and the national side’s bowlers seem to have acclimatised to the English conditions well.
During Pakistan’s first first-class contest on British shores, since 2010, earlier this week, fast-bowler Mohammad Amir and leg-spinner Yasir Shah, both making their returns after serving bans, looked in control.
The 24-year-old Amir bagged 4 wickets, whereas, the “best spinner”, as Misbah referred to Shah during the interview, took 6 scalps.
Misbah, who reserved his comments on Amir’s international comeback, conceded that he was not in favour of the left-arm pacer’s return.
However, he insisted he was now fully supportive of his reintegration.
“Obviously those are decisions not in your control,” Misbah said. “More importantly it is the fans and how they reacted, they wanted to see him back playing and so they [the PCB] made the decision with the support of the ICC. So we are there to support him, everyone wants to see him playing again.”
Earlier in the week, the English skipper had hinted at untoward slurs that Amir may receive from the local fans during the first Test at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
But Misbah suggested that his pace spearhead keep his focus towards the game. “Personally I focus on what’s going on in the middle, and how [Amir] performs when he bowls, that’s what we are looking for.
“He’s got the best chance to prove himself out in the middle, and he doesn’t need to worry about what’s happening with thousands of spectators saying something. He just has to focus on what’s going on in the middle.
“I think he’s bowling really well even on flat tracks in T20 cricket, One-Day cricket, four-day cricket,” he added. “His pace is there, he’s swinging the ball, he’s got all the tricks to get batsmen under pressure. But one more thing is that he’s more mature. He wasn’t that mature at that time [in 2010], but that maturity can help him now.”
The Pakistan skipper praised how the team gelled together in the wake of the spot-fixing controversy that tarnished the team’s image all over the world.
“I think we’ve done really well in the last six years and all credit to the players,” Misbah said.
“We’ve understood what was going on with the Pakistan team at that time, and they responded really well in terms of performances, roles and especially, their off-field behaviours. It’s about restoring that image for Pakistan and, as a whole, it’s quite satisfying.”
Pakistan’s tour of England officially kicks off from July 14. The national side will play four Tests, five One-Day Internationals (ODI), and a Twenty20 International besides two ODIs against Ireland on the tour.