LAHORE                      -                     Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali has said that his plan is to play fearless cricket and give consistent performances to regain number one Test spot.

In a virtual talk with sports journalists professionally organised by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) media department here on Thursday, Azhar said: “My plan is to play fearless cricket. The target is to prove ourselves one of the best Test sides and for this, we have to perform exceptionally in home and away series. In our series against England and New Zealand, we need to prove our mettle, as this will be a great step towards becoming a number one side.

“We can’t be a number one Test team if we keep on winning the home series, rather we need to produce extraordinary results in away series as well. While in home series, we have to outclass the opponents convincingly to get significant points to get rapid rise in rankings. This is all about our plan and we are focused and committed to achieve it. If every player plays fearless cricket, shoulder his responsibility and give consistent performance, no one can stop us to achieve our goal,” he added.

When reminded he was also part of the Test side, which earned the honour of becoming No 1 Test team under Misbah’s captaincy and asked whether he has plan to regain this feat as a captain, Azhar replied: “Yes, I do remember I was part of the team, which achieved this feat under the leadership of Misbah bhai. We had performed consistently in Test cricket as we played most of our cricket in Dubai, then we had a successful England tour and also played well against other Test sides. Overall, it was consistent performance, which helped us achieved number one Test ranking.

“Now I want the same from my boys as I want them to play with great confidence and give out consistent performances, as it is the only way to regain number one Test slot. Every series is important for us and the better we perform against our opponents, the more chances we’ll have of improving our ranking,” he added.

The skipper said that he wants to bring optimistic approach in the dressing room and keen to make them mentally tough to tackle pressure. “I want to make the team fearless and positive towards their approach. The team usually gets tensed when they’re under pressure but I want to change this approach through proper guidance and counseling.”

When asked about his poor form, Azhar said his knee injury was the main reason behind his dip in form and also a factor behind him deciding not to play white-ball cricket for Pakistan and focus only on Tests. “The knee injury has hampered my form. I was at my peak when it happened. We won the Champions Trophy as well, but after the injury, those 6-8 months did disturb me and my form. But now I am working very hard and hoping to come out of this tough time soon.”

Azhar said that he has good relationship with head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, adding that they have similar ideas and having played under him for a long time, they get along very well. “We don’t have lot of disagreements. I have played a lot under Misbah and it helps a lot in understanding each other well.”

He said he has also good relations with bowling coach Waqar Younis, adding, “Mostly with Waqar bhai, I discuss things regarding bowling. The cool and calm approach of Misbah makes his way also cool while Waqar bhai used to do it in a different way. Both are legends and big names in Pakistan cricket.”

About future of ICC World Test Championship, the Pakistan captain said: “For me, the final of the Test Championship should be postponed due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, which has halted all the sporting activities across the globe. There is no harm in delaying the final until all teams complete their Test championship cycle. I am sure the final will be held only after all the teams get their due share of matches.”

The skipper also backed the idea of playing cricket behind closed doors, saying it will provide cricket-crazy fans something to rejoice. “There is nothing to watch on TV and no sports is happening around the world, so cricket fans will be happy if they get to watch something somehow. But lives and health of people is important and if that is not compromised, we can start with cricket slowly, but not now,” Azhar concluded.