Pakistan head coach and chief selector, Misbah-ul-Haq, addressed the media after team's practice session today. Misbah is hopeful that the young players in Pakistan will step up to the plate and deliver the goods.
Usman Qadir is set to make his debut against Australia in the T20I series. The son of recently demised Pakistan's leg-spin giant Abdul Qadir was selected primarily on the basis of his experience of playing in Australia's Big Bash League (BBL).
The lanky leggie was disgruntled with the system in Pakistan after not getting selectors' attention for a long time and had been trying his luck in Australia in the last few years, but he returned to Pakistan of late for participating in the National T20 Cup 2019 and subsequently earned his place in the side - his call up was helped by the fact of lack of wrist spinners in the circuit.
"Usman Qadir has experience playing here in Australia, knows the conditions and with his height, he can get a bit more bounce. He bowls very good googly, flipper, and leg-spin so I think that was the reason behind his [selection] and we needed to develop someone in that department to have a backup for Shadab Khan before the World Cup," said Misbah while reflecting on his selection.
Steve Smith is having a dream run-spree after his comeback to the national side and scored heavily in the Ashes and World Cup earlier this year. It has been tough for the bowlers to outfox him but Misbah is hopeful that his versatile bowling attack could get his wicket early in the piece.
"He is at the top of his game, his confidence level is high and he is consistent. The only thing we can do is to get him out [early] and that's what we are trying to figure out. Now obviously if good players are there [set on crease], the only way to stop them is to get them out [quickly]," Misbah shared his tactics ahead of the limited-overs contest.
Naseem Shah, who is only 16, is picked for the two-match Test series. He has a dearth of domestic cricket experience with only five first-class matches to show in his résumé. The young sensation has a quick-arm action, can bowl a snorter of a bouncer and bowl consistently in the channel outside off. These aforementioned traits make him an exciting prospect for the all-important tour.
"He [Naseem] is a surprise package, but only pace is not going to favour him, the good thing is that he can bowl in good areas with the new and old ball and he has done that in the first-class level. He bowled in four-day games and he is bowling well in all spells. His control is also good so we are looking forward that he can get pace and bounce from these wickets and everybody is excited how he will bowl in Australia."
Azhar Ali has captained the ODI side before and has plenty of leadership experience. Misbah expects him to transition to the Test captaincy role smoothly, but the coach is going to actively mentor Babar Azam - who is very new to the job.
"Azhar has experience of captaincy, he has played a lot of Tests and international cricket. Babar is new and I think it would be really important for me to pass on the advice and the teammates also need to support him and execute the plans.
"In the bowling department, we have experienced guys including Imad Wasim, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and I think they can really help him [Babar] in setting the fields and have their bowling plans executed properly. Obviously, it's a new experience for Babar but I think this is how you learn, especially these challenges always help to get stronger and [grow] in stature."
Often players snap under the pressure of captaincy and their own performance declines which might have happened with Sarfaraz Ahmed - who lost his T20 captaincy after an unexpected 3-0 defeat against a depleted Sri Lanka side earlier this month. Misbah has some tips regarding managing the captaincy smartly.
"For the captain, team performance is important but their own performance is more important and to fulfil their role in the team. Azhar and Babar should focus and concentrate as a batsman first. Everybody knows their role in the team, but the captain is also operating [everyone]. As a captain, responsibility can also improve self-performance. Babar, the number one ranked T20 batsman, should continue to perform in a similar way as it will help him in captaincy," Misbah advised.
Pakistan is regarded globally as an unpredictable team and the ebbs and flows are quite conspicuous with them. However, they have been fairly consistent in the T20 format with eleven straight series wins under Sarfaraz but the latest upset defeat against Sri Lanka has brought the tag of 'unpredictably' associated with Pakistan team to light again.
"We want to use that unpredictable [tag] in a positive manner. We don't want to just go there and fail. We need to be more consistent with our good performances and that's what we are trying to do at the moment," remarked Misbah.
Misbah talked about acclimatizing to the conditions that offer pace and bounce. He is confident that his bowling attack will adjust their lines and length accordingly.
"Playing here is a bigger challenge but it also presents a bigger opportunity. Conditions in Australia are very different and we need to adjust to the pace and bounce as a batting unit and obviously, when spinners are [used to] bowling in Asian conditions, they have to bowl slightly different here.
"The lengths are different for the pacers [as well]. So these are the challenges we are looking ahead of the series. The kind of talent we have, [if] we can be disciplined in all departments, I think we can produce good results."