ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan test captain Azhar Ali wants to quickly forget the two losses to Australia and prepare for next week’s home test series against Sri Lanka.
Pakistan couldn’t win a single international match in Australia, losing the Twenty20 series 2-0 and then the test matches, which were part of World Test Championship, in Brisbane and Adelaide by large margins inside four days.
“It was a disappointing series (against Australia),” Azhar said Friday. “We are a pride cricketing nation and definitely our pride has been hurt with two innings defeat in Australia.”
Pakistan arrived from Australia early Friday and has only four more days before it takes on Sri Lanka in the first test in Rawalpindi.
It will be the first test in Pakistan in more than 10 years since the Sri Lanka cricket team bus came under a terrorist attack in Lahore. Eight people were killed during the ambush and several Sri Lankan players were also injured.
“It’s a memorable occasion for all of us because all (Pakistan) players will be playing their first test match in Pakistan,” said Azhar, who has played 75 test matches since making his debut in 2010 against Australia at Lord’s.
Pakistan had to choose neutral venues to play its home matches. The bulk of the international matches were organized in the United Arab Emirates.
Sri Lanka has chosen a full strength side to play two test matches with allrounder Angelo Matthews and batsman Dinesh Chandimal among those who earlier refused to travel to Pakistan three months ago for a limited-overs series because of security concerns.
“Sri Lanka is bringing their full strength side and we have to play very good cricket to beat them,” Azhar said. “We will try our best … whatever time we have in between, we freshen up our minds, look forward to play good cricket and get back on track, which is very important for us.”
Azhar replaced Sarfaraz Ahmed as test captain before the series against Australia but the right-handed batsman had been going through a run of poor form for a year since making 134 against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi in December 2018.
He scored only 59 runs in three test matches against South Africa this year and in four test innings against Australia he could make only 62 runs.
And Azhar knows very well that without scoring runs, it might get difficult for him to retain his place in the test team when Pakistan takes on Bangladesh in a two-test series in January.
“It’s not that the ball is not coming onto my bat or when I am at the crease my footwork is not working,” he said. “I know I need runs. Whether it’s captain or any other player, nobody can play without giving performance. I realize I do have to score and I am working hard. I am feeling good in the nets, unfortunately runs are not coming, but I know when runs do come it will be in bulk.”
Pakistan also struggled to get wickets against Australia in the absence of the retired Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, who has sought an indefinite break from red ball cricket.
Although young fast bowlers Naseem Shah and Mohammad Musa made their debuts in Brisbane and Adelaide, respectively, they couldn’t trouble Australia batsmen David Warner and Marnus Labuchagne, who both scored big in the series.
“Bowling attack was young and couldn’t perform, but still the world is talking about them today. They have pace and with little bit more experience they will be a great future for Pakistan,” Azhar said. “We couldn’t take wickets with new ball. It’s very important to take wickets with new ball in Australia and we also couldn’t control the run-rate.”
Pakistan will announce the test squad for the series against Sri Lanka on Saturday and Azhar said he had a lengthy discussion with chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, who is also the team’s head coach and batting coach.
“ We have consulted about the team composition,” Azhar said. “I can’t disclose it, Misbah bhai (brother) will announce the team and give you reasons for selection (tomorrow). I can’t tell you more than that.”
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