Pakistan cricket is going through a wonderful phase in the last couple of years. While Pakistan had drawn the Test series (2-2) on English soil back in 2016, they won the ICC Champions Trophy in the same country last year. And now Pakistan are yet again on the verge of a historic triumph in England.
Having registered a comprehensive 9-wicket victory in the first Test at Lord’s, Pakistan have taken an unassailable 1-0 lead over England in the two-match Test series.
Ahead of the second Test at Leeds on Friday (June 1), Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood has said the team bonding is an important factor behind their success in the recent past.
“We have a great bunch of guys, each with their own individual personalities, all getting along with each other. Players such as Hasan, who is an extrovert, whereas Faheem is quite shy on the pitch. Asad Shafiq who is also quite witty when among friends,” Mahmood said in an exclusive interview with sport360.com.
“Team bonding is an important factor, and one great thing I’ve noticed is these guys pray for each other’s success. It’s beautiful, it really is, it just shows you how close-knit this unit is. Smiling and laughing while playing isn’t a sign of weakness, but confidence, it shows that we are comfortable with the situation, and not tense, which can be detrimental to performance,” he added.
During Pakistan’s tour of England in 2016, Wahab Riaz was the second highest wicket-taker for Pakistan after Yasir Shah. When asked if the left-armer should have been included in the ongoing tour, Azhar said: “As you know we’re here in the early part of the season, and conditions are not conducive to pace, and that’s the reason the selectors did not pick him. Wahab is part of our future plans. Sometimes you need to drop a player for him to come back stronger, as complacency can creep into your game.”
“Wahab had a great [Pakistan Super League], bowled with some genuine pace, we have done a lot of work with him and will continue to do so, as you’ll notice his no ball rate is now so much lower – he only bowled a few during the PSL. Plus his stint at Derbyshire will help polish his skills,” he further remarked.
Mahmood, who is no stranger to British shores as he has successfully played county cricket for Surrey and Kent, also urged the young Pakistani batsmen to put their hands up and make a mark on this tough tour.
“This tour is an opportunity for the younger guys to step up and put their hands up, and make a mark, especially someone such as Imam ul-Haq, and Shafiq, the latter is already an established test batsman,” Azhar asserted.
“Imam against Ireland, showed his maturity, he batted beyond his years and experience. This silenced his critics, and I’m positive he will continue in doing so. In Sarfraz, we have a great captain, always encouraging his players to push for their best,” he added.
When asked how these young batsmen asked will handle the likes of Anderson and Broad, Mahmood explained: “In English conditions, these are two great bowlers – with 900-odd wickets between them. They will be extremely tough to handle, but we are ready to face them. It’s also an opportunity for the batsmen to make a name for themselves. If you perform and make your mark in England, it will always looks good on your cricketing CV.”