LAHORE - Pakistan captain Misbahul Haq hopes his players will quickly find their Test match groove when they play the first match of a two-game series against Sri Lanka at Galle on August 6.
Pakistan hasn’t played a Test since drawing the series 1-1 against Sri Lanka in January at Sharjah, where it sensationally chased down 302 runs in 57.3 overs on the last evening. In the meantime, Sri Lanka has won a first Test series in England, and was trying to save the home series against South Africa.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has overhauled the coaching staff, with Waqar Younis back as head coach, and Zimbabwe’s Grant Flower taking over as batting coach. The new coaches have been leading training for nine days here, where the players have been trying to reproduce match scenarios. Pakistan has not won a Test series since beating England 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates in 2012.
Talking to the reporters here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday, Misbah said: "There is some rustiness and this is why we are playing as many as practice matches here to find some flow. We are trying to get maximum batting practice and have been trying to tune ourselves for the last three days and simulate match scenarios. After all we are professional and we have to deal with whatever is coming our way so we have to manage and we will manage and will be ready by the time the series starts."
Misbah cited the 3-0 series defeat in South Africa last year as a setback that the team found hard to shake off. "When we went to South Africa, we got under pressure after losing there but things have improved a lot so far. We have started to win matches and that is very important though we are yet to win a series. But there is also a reality that we are improving - our batting is looking good. We will try to repeat the same performance."
"Sri Lanka mostly plays its first Test at Galle, it's their hunting ground. First Test is always important and our effort will be to remain focused and get prepared ourselves. The conditions suit us, it's a good opportunity for us, and there is a chance of result there. Sri Lanka lost against South Africa there so they will be under pressure too and there is a possibility of them bouncing back hard," he added.
Umar Akmal was recalled after nearly three years out of the Test team, with Asad Shafiq also retained in the squad. These two could compete for one middle-order slot leaving the captain a tough decision to choose between them. "There's no confusion, whatever the decision is, it's the selectors' decision. Umar Akmal has been playing well in one-day cricket and has ample experience under his belt. So such in-form players are good can be used straightaway because they are not new and they have no pressure on them. Asad Shafiq is a promising player. He has given good performances in Tests and both are the future for us," Misbah concluded.