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‘Great opportunity for an inexperienced side to prove themselves in Australia’ – Azhar Ali
Stern challenge for Azhar Ali

‘Great opportunity for an inexperienced side to prove themselves in Australia’ – Azhar Ali

Pakistan’s newly appointed Test captain Azhar Ali has admitted his side lacks experience but can deliver results if they play fearless cricket against Australia.

Sarfaraz Ahmed, who was appointed Test captain after the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq, was recently sacked by the PCB as Pakistan currently stand at No 7 in ICC Test rankings.

Azhar, in his first interaction with the press after taking over as Test skipper, admitted Pakistan have an inexperienced side, in particular the fast bowling unit after the absence of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz.

Amir has already announced his retirement from the longest format while Wahab Riaz decided to take an indefinite break from red-ball cricket before the start of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

Pakistan’s Test record in Australia is below par too, as they have only managed to win four Tests in a total of 35 matches played. They have also never won a Test series in Australia.

“Our track record in Australia hasn’t been great and we don’t have experienced bowlers,” said Azhar in a press conference at Gaddafi Stadium. “But I understand this is a great opportunity for new players and set-up who can play without any fear.”

“You cannot beat Australia without playing positive cricket. My message to players is to play aggressive cricket despite our average record.”

'Experience matters, but on the day you have to perform'

Azhar, who was a part of Pakistan side which lost against Sri Lanka [in 2017] and New Zealand [2018], said it was important for Pakistan [a top-ranked side in 2016] to improve its performance in away conditions as they have slipped to No 7 in ICC Test rankings.

"The moment we don’t get out of our comfort zone and start winning outside Asian conditions, we cannot break into top five in Test rankings.

When asked again about the stern challenge in Australia, Azhar cited Pakistan’s historical win against Australia in Leeds which was also his debut series.

“We won a Test match in Leeds [in 2010] where the number of Tests played by Ponting were more than by our combined XI. Experience matters but on the day you have to perform."

‘Have to develop a culture where we take better decisions under pressure’

Pakistan’s inability to bat well in extreme pressure has been under the microscope, given their batting collapses against Sri Lanka in 2017 and New Zealand last year.

New Zealand bagged their first away series win over Pakistan for the first time in 49 years, when they won the final Test at Abu Dhabi by 123 runs.

With 280 to win, Pakistan crumbled in pressure once again, getting bowled out for 156. They were then told to 'toughen up and seize key moments' by their head coach at that time, Mickey Arthur.

Azhar said it was ‘vital to develop a culture where we [as a team] take better decisions and remain calm under pressure.’

“We have to empower players to take decisions for themselves. I have learned these things from my experience because you cannot tell players to do everything. The moment this happens; the results will be much better," he added.