For the first time in a long time, Pakistan will feel the absence of Misbah-Ul-Haq and Younis Khan when they take the field against Sri Lanka. But team coach Mickey Arthur has backed his team to deliver with a combination of eager youngsters and experienced players looking to fill the massive void created. The two match Test series begins on September 28.
“Things are shaping up well and this is a real challenge for us. We had a good chat with the boys this morning. The challenge is there and it’s a new chapter, a new dawn for our Test team,” Arthur said.
Pakistan are looking to regain the highs they had seen in 2016 – at a time when the side were top of the ICC Test rankings – but lost way thereafter. Following a level series finish in England, Pakistan lost in New Zealand and Australia to drop to sixth in the rankings – one better than Sri Lanka. “I think we’re ranked sixth at the moment and we have to work on getting it down. We have set ourselves some realistic goals. South Africa 2019 (Pakistan will be touring the South Africa in 2018-19) is our ultimate goal. That’s where we want to be where we think we can be with this group of players,” he added.
Arthur has put his faith in the likes of Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam to carry the batting forward following retirements by Misbah and Younis after more than ten years of cricket. “Of course it will be very unfair to the guys you bring in to the team to say they are the replacements. I think it is now on people like Azhar Ali, who has been superb for us last year in the Tests. Asad Shafiq, and to a lesser extent Babar Azam – it is incumbent on those three guys standing up taking the bulk of the runs now. The other guys are young and inexperienced and are where Azam was a year ago and Shafiq a couple of years ago. Every series we go into we want to win, as we are judged on that.”
“It is a new dawn for us as we are going to see some fresh and young faces. I think that is very exciting in taking the team forward.”