KARACHI: With an intensive practise session here at the National Stadium on Thursday, the new-look Pakistan cricket team started preparations for the first Test against South Africa next week.
Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, batting coach Younis Khan and bowling coach Waqar Younis were joined during the four-hour session by former Pakistani greats Mohammad Yousuf, Saqlain Mushtaq and former New Zealand star Grant Bradburn, the coaches at Lahore’s National High Performance Centre.
Along with Bradburn, who has been here to witness the domestic tournaments, both Yousuf and Saqlain are in town to watch the last step of the ongoing one-day Pakistan Cup tournament. They will be in attendance for the next two days at the preparation sessions.
The pressure is on Misbah and Waqar to turn around the team’s fortunes in what will be Pakistan’s first series after the national side were outplayed 2-0 in New Zealand earlier this month, after both earned reprieve after their meeting last week in Lahore with the PCB’s Cricket Committee, led by Saleem Yousuf.
But though both Misbah and Waqar survived, the incoming chief selector, Mohammad Wasim, at least for the South Africa series, made a dramatic overhaul of the team that went to New Zealand by indicting as many as nine uncapped players for the Proteas series in the preliminary 20-man squad.
Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah were all dropped after a spate of bad results on the last two tours to England and New Zealand. Imran Butt, Saud Shakeel, Kamran Ghulam, Agha Salman, Abdullah Shafiq, Sajid Khan, Nauman Ali, Tabish Khan and Haris Rauf are the fresh faces in the Test team, which is predicted to be reduced to 16 at the weekend.
The fit-again paceman Hasan Ali, who has been absent from the national team since the 2019 World Cup in England, is also returning to the squad after an 18-month absence, after displaying top form during the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. The heroics of Hasan as captain allowed Central Punjab to play a thrilling tie at the National Stadium earlier this month in the final against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with both teams sharing a first-class title.
Pakistan will resume its preparation at the National Stadium over the next four days, while on Thursday, the visiting South Africa, who arrived in the city last Saturday and had multiple networks, played an intra-squad practise game at Karachi Gymkhana, adjacent to their hotel, and are scheduled to play a second fixture at the same venue on Friday.
Quinton de Kock-led South Africa will begin their test preparations at the National Stadium on Saturday. South African head coach Mark Boucher will hold a pre-match media briefing on the eve of the first test, beginning on Tuesday.