ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistan Test opener Muhammad Wasim has backed Azhar Ali to fill the void in the team that may be created by the sooner or later with departure of Test captain Misbahul Haq.

In an interview with The Nation on Wednesday, Wasim said this is the high time for Misbah to call it a day as he was performing exceptionally and must not wait for England series as his critics were waiting for right opportunity to unleash a hell on him.

“There is no example in Pakistan that a player is given proper send off. Misbah had done tremendous job for Pakistan. But ever since he is appointed as skipper, he always remains at receiving end,” he added.

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He said the real concern for the PCB would be filling the void to be created with the departure of Younus Khan and Misbah and should planned for it as till now the PCB had adopted the policy of picking players only on T-20 performances.

It is a wrong policy and huge injustice to players who had performed in domestic circuit on regular basis and scored loads of runs every season and, if they are not given chance in longer version of the game, then it makes no sense of talking too much and doing nothing in reality, he added.

Former Test opener said Azhar should have batted at his normal and preferred position at number 3, where he had scored loads of runs. “If Shoaib Malik was to be in the playing XI then he should have opened the innings. In my personal opinion, Shan Masood should have given chance as he batted well in the second Test. Pakistan faces a lot of problems in the opening and middle order. The openers should be given enough time so they could cement their place in the side.”

He however differs with Malik’s decision to retire from Test cricket and said Malik should have continued for another few years as he had performed well, either with the willow or leather. “Malik could have been vital for Pakistan chances in the England series. I guess Asad Shafiq would be in the picture after post Misbah retirement as he had to come at number 4 or 5. It would be the real test of his character and abilities and he is to perform to cement his place. I strongly recommend Haris Sohail must be included in the England-bound squad as first of all Pakistan team needs a left handed batsman and secondly, he is ideally suited to English conditions and he is also handy with the ball as well and could provide few crucial breakthroughs.”

He said England tour would be a test case of Pakistani players’ mental level. Wasim asked the board to work on opening and middle order department ahead of the England series as they have ample time before visiting England.

“It would be a very difficult series. We don't have even ordinary record in England. Their bowlers utilise conditions to the best of their abilities and Pakistani batsmen had always struggled to cope with seam and moving deliveries and there is every possibility they could melt under pressure once again. Instead of wasting time and hoping for favourable results, the PCB must start work on their players to prepare them for the stern test before it’s too late.”

When asked about progress in his recently launched academy and how many players he thinks could be future of Pakistan cricket, Wasim said he had around 150 players in the academy but was quite disappointed by the lack of quality off spinners. However, he singled out one off spinner Waleed as class act and requested the PCB to take him to NCA and check him. “I find him technically perfect, he is only 18 and has ample time to easily fix if there could be any shortcoming in his action and could prove an asset for Pakistan.”

He asked the PCB to support his academy until the board start work on its own regional academies and it would benefit both players as well as the board. . He said students were top priority for his academy at Degree college ground and he would not only provide free coaching to players but also help the college to pick their team. He also requested private sector to lend helping hand to his academy and promised that within 4 or 5 months he would be able to give country future stars, who could serve country in the years to come

“Sports culture is very important to bring awareness among society as our country really needs to develop sporting culture to promote harmony,” Wasim concluded.