Misbah satisfied with team preparation; playing two spinners in first Test is possible: head coach

From AZ Aamir 

MANCHESTER: Pakistan’s head coach Misbah-ul-Haq is satisfied with his charges’ preparation for the three-match Test Series which will begin here at Old Trafford from Wednesday.

“As far as preparations are concerned so I am pretty much satisfied,” Misbah told a virtual news conference here on Monday (today).
“When you assemble after three months inactivity and start from zero so it was a wonderful experience. You need such camps. Previously too we held such camps ahead of important series. We spent together the month-long quarantine period which was very important for team bonding,” said Misbah, also a former Pakistan captain.

“I am pretty much satisfied and overall the preparation we have made we will have to take it into Test matches. Team is in good shape and InshaAllah we will have to play good cricket. We have also seen England-West Indies series and it is a sort of evidence for us about the latest cricket held and the series is also helpful for us for making a strategy,” Misbah said while responding to a question.

“Yes the look of the pitch is similar to the one on which England played against the West Indies when the ball was turning. We are also considering this thing and will look the pitch today and then tomorrow. We will also look at the weather conditions and then InshaAllah will decide. Yes possibility is there for playing two spinners. It is also encouraging sign for us. These things are under consideration,” Misbah said when asked about the possibility of playing two spinners in the first Test as the wicket could possess wear and tear.

When asked that people expect from Pakistan Misbah said: “I think it’s good thing that people expect from us. Obviously for confidence such things are good for the team. There are encouraging signs for us as the ball turns and conditions are dry. But it does not mean that the conditions, favouring us, could give us win but good cricket guarantees you a victory. English team is not easy to beat on their home soil. But we have a good chance if conditions and weather help us. But we will have to play our potential cricket. We should think about such things,” Misbah said. “We will have to execute our plans rightly and we are focussing on that,” he was quick to add.

When asked whether players are mentally exhausted after practicing in the same environment for five weeks Misbah said:”I don’t think it’s the case.” “Yes nervousness is always there when you play after long time. This thing will feel little bit. And there is nothing like this that players are getting bored. During preparations we have tried our level best to give proper rest to the boys and they have been involved in recreational activities in the shape of playing other games and spending time together and we are anticipating good cricket as boys are fresh,” he conceded.

When asked how much pressure would be on Babar because of his calibre to carry the batting burden and the role of Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali who scored two centuries each in the last 18 Tests they played, Misbah said: “Yes this thing will also be in their mind.”
“Me and Younis told them that there is no need to build on themselves undue pressure. You should go as batsmen and do your best. If you take pressure and preoccupy your mind that you are to perform then it could create problems for you to focus. The six batsmen, we have, need to put in their best out there,” he said.

“As far as Babar Azam is concerned so the basic of his success story is that he takes challenge and has responded very well to the pressure which he has faced after becoming captain. Hopefully Babar will continue playing like this and both Asad and Azhar will also exploit their experience and deliver on English soil,” Misbah said.

“Their contribution is very important. Looking forward Abid Ali and Shan have also come here after performing well during the last two series. Batting is pretty in good shape, having won last two series and will try to continue this,” he said.

“If you are to win against any team so challenges are always there. It’s not easy to win in other’s conditions and you will have to deliver in all the three departments. Our hunting grounds are the Oval, Lord’s and Southampton. In Old Trafford conditions are slightly different from the past. Here are dry conditions and break have been seen. Later on there are also chances of reverse swing. In 2016 when we played here there was nothing for spinners even on the fourth and fifth day. The last two Test matches which we saw here at Old Trafford spin was seen,” he reiterated.

Misbah agreed that the top order would decide which way the match would go. “Yes, it is very important for the top order to click. Bowling on both sides is strong. Because of the difficult conditions English batting also struggled. Yes the top order will decide which way the match goes. If you cross 300 runs in the first innings your wining chances become 70 percent. We have seen Test matches and have an idea and will try to implement the things,” Misbah said.

When asked whether last few practice matches performances would help in team-making for the first Test Misbah said:”We will see as performances matter a lot. But always wickets don’t decide the way one is bowling. Sohail Khan, no doubt, is bowling very well. But in decision making the conditions in which you are going to play and the strength of the opponents are very important,” he said. “Conditions were bowling-friendly where we played intra-squad matches. Here conditions are different,” he said.

“There is no doubt that English bowlers are more experienced than Pakistani bowlers. But our bowlers have great potential and hopefully they will play long cricket like them. Shaheen, Naseem and Abbas have proved their worth and hopefully they will also prove themselves in such tough conditions to leave their authority,” Misbah said.

“Bowlers always have interaction with Wasim Akram but I don’t know anyone from outside can come during COVID-19 to interact with the bowlers. On phone players are in contact and keep seeking his advice. Shaheen has also talked to Wasim several times and Shinwari has been taking Waseem’s help,” Misbah said.

“As far as two posts are concerned so it would be better concentrate on the series. These things will be looked into later on when the series will end. People cannot decide the favourites. On a given day the team which will play better will win the game,” Misbah said. “Younis is very helpful to me because it is very difficult when you have around 17 batsmen in the squad. Younis is experienced and knows how to prepare batsmen mentally and physically. His work ethics are good, highly experienced, mentally strong and I think he transfers all these traits,” he said.

“His contribution in game plan and tactics would also matter and would improve team performance,” Misbah said. “If you say that if we lose it will dent my position and if we win it will improve my position so I think that will be a sort of talking against my vision. My vision is that Pakistan team should improve gradually and we should be at least in top three in all formats,” Misbah said.
Misbah said that Pakistan would announce a 16-man squad for the first Test tomorrow (Tuesday).

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