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Pakistan have ability, experience to deliver in Sri Lanka: Babar

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LAHORE: Pakistan captain Babar Azam on Monday said his team had the capability and the experience to perform well in the forthcoming two-Test series in Sri Lanka.

“We possess a good spin attack and our fast bowlers have the ability to perform under different conditions while we also have the batters who hold the experience to perform in those conditions,” Babar said while addressing a press conference before leaving for Colombo via Dubai in the wee hours of Monday.

Fifth-placed Pakistan face Sri Lanka, seventh in the ICC Test team rankings, in a series starting in Galle From July 16-20. The second Test will be held in Colombo from July 24-28 at the R. Premadasa Stadium.

“Pakistan is touring Sri Lanka to play the Test matches after 2015 and we hope the players will give their best to earn maximum points,” said the 27-year-old Babar, who has played 40 Tests including 11 as captain.

As skipper, Babar has won two Tests each against South Africa, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and one against the West Indies while losing one Test each to the West Indies and Australia.

“We are going with a fine spin attack that includes experienced [leg-spinner] Yasir Shah. Nauman Ali and Mohammad Nawaz are also good [slow left-arm orthodox] spinners, so this department which can play a key role in Sri Lankan is well prepared to deliver,” Babar, who will be playing his first Test in Sri Lanka, said.

“Similarly, our fast bowlers prepared well for the series during the training camp [held in Rawalpindi recently].”

Commenting on Yasir, the captain underlined the 36-year-old spinner’s main problem was fitness but added that he had done significant hard work to improve.

“During the training camp [in Rawalpindi] the team management gave him maximum opportunities to bowl and he remained impressive.”

To a question, Babar said keeping in view the Sri Lankan conditions the best team would be selected, adding if necessary opener Shan Masood could play as a middle-order batter.

“We will be going into the field with the best combination according to the prevailing situation and if it is deemed appropriate Shan can also play,” he said.

Southpaw Shan, who last played a Test match in January 2021 against New Zealand at Christchurch, has batted impressively for Derbyshire in the ongoing English County Championship.

Babar did not agree with the questioner that Pakistan needed a solid hitter at fifth spot saying wicket-keeper/batter Mohammad Rizwan, Nawaz and he himself were batting in the middle and all had the ability to play according to the demand, instead.

He emphasized that the weather in Sri Lanka was not in his control, but making best efforts was, adding the boys would give their best.

On two occasions at the presser, Babar was asked questions on India’s batting maestro Virat Kohli, a number of whose records in international cricket the former has broken. But Babar avoided going into the details.

When Babar was asked to comment how he considered playing alongside Kohli next year in Afro-Asian cricket planned by the Asian Cricket Council, the Pakistan skipper said his focus was currently on the Sri Lanka series. Answering yet another question on breaking Kohli’s records, Babar without mentioning the name of the Indian batter said he was concentrating only on performance.

Babar said former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar visited the national training camp in Rawalpindi and gave some useful tips to the fast bowlers.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022

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