ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistan team batting maestro and skipper Zaheer Abbas termed Pakistan team as very balanced and said the selectors had assembled the best available squad under current circumstances.
Talking to The Nation before his departure to UAE for personal visit, Zaheer, who is also known as Asian Bradman, said: “The green shirts are more than capable of beating Lanakan Lions at their own backyard. It is true Sri Lankans are very hard nut to crack at their own grounds, but South Africans had just managed to win a series, which puts extra pressure on the hosts, while on the other hand, Pakistan team is fresh and hungry after a long international break.”
“I have given my entire life to cricket but I never witnessed such passion and commitment showed by the players during the long training camp at National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore. The players were highly motivated and charged and were paying special attention to what they were being taught during the camp by the coaches. They were completely focused and physically and mentally involved in what was being told to them. I watched them regularly practicing and helping each other while junior players were also learning from the experience of seniors,” he added.
“I must admit after a very long time, I have witnessed such a passion, commitment and dedication in the players and I am quite convinced their hard work and commitment will work wonders and they will try their best return home with their heads high,” he stated.
“It will be a test of nerves and the team, manages to handle the pressure accordingly, will come out as eventual winners. Sri Lankan team’s morale looked quite low and they are not at the same heights which they used to be in the presence of Muralitharan while Malinga is not as lethal as it was once. Although Pakistan team is also a blend of juniors and seniors, yet they have the added advantage of having the likes of Younus Khan and Misbah, who are the backbones of middle order and they also have world class opener in the shape of Ahmed Shahzad who is a tremendous talent. He must fulfill his potential and deliver not only for himself but also for the team and the country. If he manages to provide solid contribution along with another sensational lad Umar Akmal, it will be very hard for the Lankans to dictate terms,” Zaheer said.
Speaking about Umar Akmal, he said: “According to my knowledge and experience, Umar Akmal is an outstanding player and he must spend time at the crease because as long as he stays at the crease, the runs will start to come thick and fast and he can single-handedly turn the tables on any given opposition. He always looks in a hurry so he must learn how to prolong stay at the wicket.”
To a query regarding the team’s bowling strength, Zaheer replied: “As far as Pakistani bowling is concerned, it will certainly rests heavily on the shoulders of magician Saeed Ajmal who will surely lead the team from the front and strike early blows for it. Sangakkara is the main danger for Pakistan bowling along with experienced Jaywardena. This is last series of Jaywardena so he would have wanted to sign off on a high. If Pakistani bowlers manage to restrict these two dangermen, the task will be very easy to accomplish.”
Talking about head coach, he said: “Waqar Younis is a very hard working and demanding coach and he definitely wants to start his second stint on a high. He worked very hard with the players in the nets and he is fully capable of taking best out of his players.”
“Heavy responsibility also rests on the shoulders of Junaid Khan, who is now key and main fast bowler. Pakistan team desperately needs early breakthroughs and Junaid can play pivotal role in providing early wickets. Pakistan bowling looks perfect and they have to use the conditions to best of their abilities. Things are looking bright for Pakistan to inflict home series defeat on Lankans and further improve their ICC Test rankings. I am quite sure they will live up to the expectations and return as victorious,” Zaheer concluded.