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'We are engaging in match scenario practice to help the youngsters prepare' - Azhar Ali
Pakistan News

'We are engaging in match scenario practice to help the youngsters prepare' - Azhar Ali

Senior batsman Azhar Ali has highlighted the importance of match scenario practice sessions as part of the process of developing the skills the younger lot ahead of the upcoming Test series against South Africa.

Pakistan's 20-man squad named for the two matches comprises of nine uncapped players – five of whom are batsmen – signalling a dramatic overhaul of the side that competed in New Zealand last month.

After reaching in Karachi at the site of their first Test, Pakistan's squad was observed to be involved in long training sessions where players converted routine nets into match scenario practice with wickets and slip fielders.

"About the long sessions, we are engaging in match scenario practice in order to help the youngsters learn," Azhar revealed. "Also, we are coming directly from New Zealand, where pitches had a lot of pace and bounce so we are trying to get a feel of how the wicket here is behaving. This is why you will see the long sessions as the nets have been transformed into a match scenario."

Azhar additionally offered words of encouragement for the potential debutants in Pakistan's line-up, calling on them to step onto the field without the stress and fear of losing their spot in the side.

"International cricket is always a challenge and the pressure will always remain even if you have played for a while. But obviously, for a new player, it can get difficult to handle pressure and then there are insecurities about securing your position in the team," he commented.

"There is a wide gulf between domestic and international cricket so players can get insecure. As a senior player, my only advice is to trust your skills and stick with what has worked for you. If you think too much, the negativity will hold you back. So, be positive and enjoy playing for your country."

Also Read: 'Players require time to settle in their respective roles' - Younis Khan

Pakistan cricket is assumed to be quite generous in handing out Test caps but past selectors have been found guilty of not sticking to the young talent for an extended period. A damning stat depicting this trend is that Pakistan have produced 28 players who have made a solitary Test appearance in the last 30 years.

Azhar spoke about the crushing demand of quick results from anyone thrust into the limelight as the weight of media criticism ultimately leads to the downfall of rookie players.

"All the players who have been selected in the squad are those who have performed in the domestic circuit. It is important to value those who have excelled and come through the system," he claimed.

"I am hopeful they will perform and it is imperative that they enjoy the opportunity given to them. We have a culture of giving hype to upcoming players and chucking them out into the wilderness if they fail. We are quick to judge players after one or two flop shows.

"We need to develop a middle ground so that the player can be groomed and can serve Pakistan for a long time. A balanced mindset is key for us as players too."

South Africa last played a Test series in Pakistan in 2007 with none of the players barring Faf du Plessis boasting the experience of these conditions.

Despite the apparent disadvantage, Azhar felt the Proteas possessed an all-round side capable of putting on a stiff battle with the hosts.

"South Africa is a strong team, especially their bowling seems to have covered all bases. They have good fast bowlers and their premier spinner [Keshav] Maharaj has been playing Test cricket for a long time and is known for his consistent bowling.

"Even if a spin track is prepared, we have to bring our 'A' game to the fore as he is a seasoned campaigner. Our batting has to be ready for the challenge to post enough runs for our bowlers," he concluded.