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'We can’t be the No. 1 Test team if we only win home series' - Azhar Ali
Pakistan News

'We can’t be the No. 1 Test team if we only win home series' - Azhar Ali

Pakistan Test captain Azhar Ali has stressed on the importance of excelling on away tours in order to ascend the rankings and achieve the ultimate goal of reclaiming the No. 1 spot.

Pakistan rose to the top of the ICC Test rankings under current head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq's captaincy in 2016.

Incidentally, Pakistan's last away series triumph also occurred in Misbah's tenure, when he and Younis Khan signed off from international cricket with a historic victory in the West Indies.

With Pakistan having been humiliated by a rampant Australian unit across two Tests in their previous overseas assignment, Azhar felt it was imperative that players live up to their potential in foreign tours as well.

"We can’t be a No.1 Test team if we win [only] the home series. We need to produce extraordinary results in the away series as well," Azhar told reporters via video conference.

"In home series, we have to outclass the opponents convincingly ... If every player plays fearless cricket, shoulders his responsibility and gives a consistent performance, no one can stop us from achieving our goal," he was quoted as saying by the ICC.

The inaugural World Test Championship format sees each participant play three home series and as many away series, awarding equal weightage to both types of victories.

Pakistan are presently placed fifth on the championship table but their second Test against Bangladesh has now been postponed in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

There is still a long way to go before the conclusion of the competition, though the sporting calendar has been disrupted by the unprecedented COVID-19 situation.

While the prospects of Pakistan's tour of England scheduled this summer look bleak at the moment, Azhar wants his team to adopt a fearless attitude and focus on prevailing in away fixtures.

"My plan is to play fearless cricket. The target is to prove ourselves as one of the best Test sides and for this, we have to perform exceptionally in home and away series.

"In our series against England and New Zealand, we need to prove our mettle, as this will be a great step towards becoming a No.1 side."

Azhar was candid enough to admit that the perception around his brand of captaincy was not very positive but he insisted his tactical decisions were made according to the context of the match.

The senior top-order batter said he always took into consideration the pitch and weather conditions before making the necessary changes in the field.

"I bat with composure and I take time, that does not mean I am a defensive captain," he described.

"In Dubai, if a fast bowler is bowling, you can’t keep four slips. In Pakistan also, where conditions are flat, you have to have balance.

“I am trying to get rid of the fear factor. They should play with a free mind. That team culture needs to be developed," Azhar emphasized.

"Every player should think about the team and there should be a relaxed atmosphere. You cannot perform under pressure and with a level-headed approach, consistency will come. It will also help in decision-making."