KARACHI: Skipper Mohammad Rizwan has vowed that during their two-match test series against New Zealand, Pakistan would not be cowed down, while expressing hope that the anticipated green-top will not put tourists in a state of fear amid the forced absence of Babar Azam, who nurses an injured thumb, batting ace.
The doughty wicketkeeper-batsman, who will become the 33rd Test captain of the world, and the sixth designated wicketkeeper after Imtiaz Ahmed, Wasim Bari, Rashid Latif, Moin Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed to do Pakistan’s honour when he leads the side on Saturday in the first Test at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, told reporters during a Thursday virtual media conference that he enjoys the side.
In whatever sport we all play, there’s nothing better than being competitive and our four-hour practise session at the Bay Oval today [Thursday] Alhamdulillah went very well and the players practised for the Test match with the spirit and strength needed, said Rizwan. “Members of Pakistan’s Shaheens side joined the test squad, which was a blessing in disguise and all of us went through the [batting, bowling and fielding] exercises. The players gelled very easily, positive for the unity of the squad and the overall camaraderie.
Rizwan admitted that the untimely injury to Babar, who injured his right thumb in Queenstown on December 13 during practise and was scheduled to lead Pakistan in a Test match for the first time, definitely robbed Pakistan of a world-class batsman.
The loss of Babar for the entire T20 series, clearly, and now the first test, is a huge blow for the squad. There is no question about his status as one of the world’s greatest cricket batsmen. But we are hopeful that someone who replaces him in Saturday’s playing eleven would put his hands up for one chance he must make full use of is to represent the country, Rizwan hoped. It is never easy to find a substitute for a player of Babar’s stature at such a brief notice. And Babar turns up at our practise sessions, despite being sick, and inspires the players and advises them not to get disheartened, which surely demonstrates how concerned he is for the wellbeing of our squad. “His words mean a lot to us all,” Rizwan observed.
He downplayed the impression of Pakistan, which was also drained by the unavailability of Shadab Khan (who led the side throughout the T20 series) and Imam-ul-Haq opener with injuries for the opening test, feeling the heat against a side of the New Zealand Test that is formidable with an outstanding track record in their own backyard.
New Zealand hammered England by an innings and 65 runs on the basis of sterling efforts by left-arm fast bowler Neil Wagner (eight wickets in Test) and wicket-keeper B.J. in the only Test played at Mount Maunganui in November 2019. Watling’s Career-205’s Best Knock.
We just don’t have to read too much about what [New Zealand] has in store for Pakistan. Today we took a closer look at the pitch and found the strip at the top completely enclosed. Rizwan noted in a confident tone that the lush exterior is a strong sign that it will be a green-top Test match pitch. Our task is to go out and do as well as we can and if New Zealand has the luxury of a world-class seam-bowling attack such as [Trent] Boult, [Tim] Southee and Wagner, then our bowlers will surely have the skill and firepower to cause a lot of issues for their batsmen.
Why should we dread bowlers in New Zealand, when our batsmen, too, have been playing back home on green-tinged pitches. You have the same kind of pitches that we’ve seen here in areas like Abbottabad, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Sialkot [in New Zealand].
“I assure our supporters that we’re going to go all out and not get under pressure to put New Zealand on the back foot by playing offensive cricket. That will be our prime target, Insha’Allah, and that’s how I play cricket.
After debuting against New Zealand at Hamilton in November 2016 when the then captain and current head coach Misbah-ul-Haq was slapped with a one-match suspension and fined for a slow over-rate violation, the 28-year-old Rizwan, who will appear in only his 10th test, noted the strain on him had substantially eased after he masterminded Pakistan to victory in Tuesday’s final Twenty20 Inter
It is still good for Pakistan to make a winning contribution. Throughout the [T20] series, I had a nice nickname. It was just that, in the way we expected, our plans were not implemented. But having said that, I would say Alhamdulillah’s win in the last T20 certainly gave us a big boost in the test series,’ he said. I am much more assured personally today, and it is a great privilege to be asked to captain the country in a test match.
I am also lucky to observe how Sarfaraz [Ahmed] has been doing his job as captain of Pakistan. He’s always been respectful of me and always happy to boost me. Personally, I would consider myself incredibly grateful when he was well known on the Pakistan side to get the chance as an understudy [to Sarfaraz]. I will thoroughly acknowledge the immense service of Sarfaraz to the nation. And I learned a lot, and by sharing the locker room with him, I grew up as a player. He has led Pakistan with distinction, no doubt, and I will always treasure his business.’