RAWALPINDI           -        The historical Pindi Cricket Stadium is all set to host Pakistan-Sri Lanka first Test today (Wednesday) after more than 15 years gap.

Both Pakistan and Sri Lankan teams had practice sessions at the Pindi Stadium while security agencies had closed down all the roads leading towards the stadium as both teams buses arrived the venue at 10:00am. They had almost three-hour training sessions. Sri Lankan team was looking highly confident about their chances in the first Test, mainly due to two reasons. First, they have a very competitive pool of players, who are combined with youth and experience and second, they are relying on the expertise of Mickey Arthur, who was last associated with Pakistan cricket team and he is the man, who knows all the positives and negatives of the host nation.

The atmosphere was highly attractive, as sports journalists, who had to travel on foot for more than 2 kilometres, reached the stadium well before practice session. The security forces have taken charge of not only the stadium, but also the roads. Ten sports journalists from Sri Lanka have also arrived the stadium, where local as well as international journalists were also present to cover the Test matches.

For the very first time in the Test history, all the Shoaib Akhtar stand’s tickets of the first day’s play were sold out. Same is the situation of other stands, while Pinidi Stadium is going through renovation/maintenance work, majority of VIP stands and Chairman Box are closed. Pindi Stadium can now host around 15,000 spectators and there is every possibility that the venue will be jam-packed on the first day.

The overcast conditions and prediction of rain might play vital role in the outcome of the Test. If rain doesn’t interrupt, Pakistan, like witnessed in Australia, may once again play safe and opt to go with six batsmen, wicketkeeper Muhammad Rizwan and four regular bowlers. Looking at the conditions and pitches, as two pitches were prepared by the Pindi curator, one wicket has hefty lush green grass on it while the second one is traditionally batting paradise. If the team management opts to go with greenish wicket, they may go with Muhammad Abbas, Shaheen Shah and Usman Shinwari, while Yasir Shah is most likely to retain his slot.

Looking at the available resources and the batting form of Fawad Alam in domestic cricket, Misbah-ul-Haq will have headache in choosing between Fawad, Haris and Iftikhar Ahmed, while Abid Ali will have bright chances of opening for the hosts while Shah Masood, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam are the most likely ones, who will get the nod of approval to play in the first Test.

It will be highly unjustified if the PCB staff and especially Pindi Stadium manager and others not be given credit for making the venue in perfect shape. Nisar Khan and Shoukat Jadoon have spent nights in the stadium to ensure timely completion of maintenance/renovation work, while whitewash of entire stands was also completed timely. The Pindi Stadium was always known as crowd puller, just like witnessed in 2004, when Pakistan was facing archrivals India, who despite hammered Pakistan by an innings and 130 runs, where Rahul Dravid played memorable 270 runs innings, it was massive crowd. The stadium was packed to capacity and same number of spectators was also outside the ground.

Same history is bound to repeat once again. It will be evenly contested encounter as Pakistan look all set to bounce back from humiliating loses at the hands of mighty Australians and give befitting reply to the visitors. The toss may play crucial role in deciding the fate of the first Test, as the team, which wins the toss, keeping in mind weather forecast is most likely to bowl first.