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'We have the potential to beat Australia' - Azhar Ali confident about making history
Pakistan News

'We have the potential to beat Australia' - Azhar Ali confident about making history

Pakistan's new Test skipper Azhar Ali has reaffirmed confidence in his side's ability to emerge victorious over Australia during the upcoming two-match series.

Talking to reporters on the eve of the first Test in Brisbane, Azhar dismissed the notion of his team entering the contest against Australia as the 'underdogs'.

"We don't believe in the underdogs tag. We have the talent to potentially do well here.

"We come with fresh faces and a new look to the Test team and we are very confident that if we execute our skills, we have the potential to beat Australia. To do that we have to just keep believing and play with no fear," the 34-year-old said.

Although Australia have been unbeaten since 1988 at the Gabba - the venue of the opening Test match - Azhar cited the counterexample of Pakistan coming within touching distance of achieving a record chase in their previous game at the ground in 2016.

Pakistan rode on a stellar knock from Asad Shafiq, accompanying the team on this tour too, to almost chase down the 490-run target in that fateful encounter.

Also Read: Talking technique: Analyzing Pakistan batsmen ahead of Australia Tests

"We came very close last time at the Gabba. I think it was one of the most exciting games that I have been a part of. Both sides played good cricket and this is reflective of the ground which always brings exciting cricket to the table," Azhar stated.

He is still settling into his new role as the full-time captain of the Test side following Sarfaraz Ahmed's sacking and admitted to receiving advice from head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, who is helping him devise the strategies.

"Misbah led Pakistan for seven years and was highly successful. His thoughts and ideas are very helpful for all of us and especially for me as a captain."

'We are definitely looking to play Naseem Shah'

Teenage pace sensation Naseem Shah produced a fiery eight-over spell in the tour game against Australia A and has since then dominated much of the pre-match hype.

Naseem, who had to cope with the tragic demise of his mother amidst the first warm-up game, fought the stinging grief to grab a spot in the playing XI.

Doubts persist over the 16-year-old's longevity in Test cricket but Azhar feels Naseem possesses the temperament and skills to succeed in the longer format.

Also Read: Pakistan set to hand Naseem maiden Test cap against Australia

"He's very fit, I have captained him in first-class matches and he has overs under his belt.

"I'm sure that he can do that in Test matches as well, I have no doubts about his fitness and his bowling skills. Not many players can reach that standard so early but there are exceptions and he's one of them."

"We are all looking forward to him having a very successful career," he said.

Azhar also took a trip down memory line and narrated how Naseem first shot to prominence owing to his vibrant pace.

"I saw Naseem bowling for the first time for Central Punjab at Gaddafi Stadium during the nets and he instantly grabbed everyone's attention."

"Earlier, he came to bowl at a friend's private cricket academy in Lahore a few years ago and that is where his journey began."

While Pakistan traditionally has churned out fast bowlers frequently, Azhar conceded the Test side was facing a dearth of pacers in recent years.

"Pakistan always produces good fast bowlers but that has not been the case in the last four-five years.

"You need quick bowlers to do well in Australia and South Africa. Now, we are lucky enough to have such a pace arsenal and all of them have a bright future ahead of them," he predicted.

Pakistan's batting may not be the focal point of attention currently given the precedence to their pace battery but Babar Azam continues to figure among the top performers for the visitors.

Babar's average in Test cricket, however, drops to 35.28 in comparison to his flattering numbers in white-ball cricket though Azhar has backed his ace player to excel in the forthcoming series.

"Babar is playing exceptionally, he's one of the top batsmen in the world right now. As a teammate, I love watching him bat.

"In the last few Test series, he has raised his standards in red-ball cricket and he is becoming a lot more consistent. I think he is ready to take it to the next level," Azhar concluded.