Faisal Iqbal confident of improved performance
Pakistan are confident they can bounce back to level the series against Australia in Sydney in the New Year's Test, due to begin on January 3. The tourists lost the first Test in Melbourne by 170 runs, their tenth defeat in a row to Australia, but they are notoriously slow starters. The pitch at the SCG looks surprisingly green two days out from the Test, but conditions are warm and muggy, conditions to which Pakistan may well be suited.
Though the grass probably won't last, the surface has for some years not been as spin-friendly as it once was. Pakistan will make changes though most questions revolve around the nature of their bowling attack; they were hamstrung in Melbourne by an injury to Danish Kaneria, but erred according to many in selecting Abdur Rauf over Umar Gul. There has been talk of two spinners playing, but word around the Pakistan camp seems to suggest they may not go that way.
"I think there might [changes] be but we will decide tomorrow," Faisal Iqbal said. "Hopefully Kaneria will play. The best person to ask is the captain. Whether we play two spinners depends on the captain."
Pakistan struggled to put together significant partnerships in Melbourne and a number of their batsmen failed to develop useful scores and starts into something more substantial. Iqbal was one of those in the second innings, getting out when set on 48. That intensified the Younis Khan situation; Pakistan's tour management and captain were keen to have the former captain called out ahead of Sydney, but the selection committee and board have not yet come to a decision, thus ruling out a surprise Younis return for the second Test.
Iqbal has filled in at No. 3 and his own position was likely to come under scrutiny if Younis had returned. "If Younis comes it will be a bonus or the team because he is one of the best batsmen in Pakistan cricket for a long time," Iqbal said. "I've always been a team man for as long as I have been playing, whatever number I play at. I always did my best, at opening, No. 3, 4 or 5 and I try to do whatever job is given to me."
Mohammad Yousuf had warned in the immediate aftermath of the first Test that the rise of Twenty20 cricket, and Pakistan's natural inclination towards it, would eventually hurt the country's Test and ODI progress. The implication was that the batsmen were unsuited to the longer form of the game. Iqbal said it was up to the individual to work out how best to adapt between the formats.
"You need to think about the games, you need to sort yourself out quickly whichever form of the game you are playing in," he said. "At the end of day we're all professionals and we have to play all forms of cricket, even the shortest form. You have to try your best to settle in. Definitely if you play the shorter form of the game, you need to learn about other forms - you need to change, be quick for short forms and have patience for Tests."
But he was confident Pakistan could learn from their errors in Melbourne and come back hard. "The team is doing well and the guys are shaping up well after the first Test. It was a good learning experience for us. Definitely we can bounce back. Pakistan has always been like that. Whenever we lose a Test, we go hard in the next Test and that is how the team works. Guys are really focused and we'll be working hard today and tomorrow."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo