New-look Pakistan all set to take on tired Bangladesh
Pakistan are looking forward to the first Test against Bangladesh at Karachi on August 20. Not because it offers a chance to rack up some easy runs and wickets, but because it is the perfect platform on which to build a young team for the future. Seven of the 15 players in the Pakistan squad are uncapped and it is a great opportunity for the newcomers to get a feel of international cricket against easy opposition.
Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, spearheads of the side for more than a decade, are both absent. Saeed Anwar has retired, and Saqlain Mushtaq is not available due to his county commitments with Surrey. Rashid Latif, captaining Pakistan for the first time at home, said: "This is a new side full of talent and has done well in one-day tournaments and now we hope that the new boys put the team on the right track with this Test."
Khaled Mahmud gets into shape for the Test against Pakistan
One of the newcomers who has done well in one-day cricket is Mohammad Hafeez, the allrounder who played a key role in Pakistan's victory in the quadrangular tournament in Sharjah. Taufeeq Umar, the left-hand opening batsman who has sparkled brightly on occasion but has lacked consistency, gets another chance to cement his place in the side. Misbah-ul-Haq, who had been dropped after a miserable series against Australia last year, gets another chance to show that he has what it takes to cut it at the top level.
The burden of the batting, however, will be borne by Yousuf Youhana and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Inzamam returns to the side with a point to prove - he was dropped after Pakistan's World Cup debacle, and his future appeared to be in doubt for a while. His looming presence underscores the impact he has on the psyche of lesser teams - he may not be green, but for the Bangladesh side, he's a hulk all right.
Shoaib Akhtar will be spearheading the pace attack, with reliable spin support from Danish Kaneria. Kaneria has taken 25 wickets in the three matches he has played so far against Bangladesh, and his relish for them will be enhanced by the way they were taken apart by Stuart MacGill recently.
The Bangladesh team, which is more or less the same side that lost to Australia recently, will not give in easily, though. "This will be different from the last time we played against Pakistan as we are progressing well and hope to put up a better show," said Khaled Mahmud, their captain. "We know how desperately we need to lift ourselves and with some positives from the tour of Australia we hope improvement will come."
Dav Whatmore, who took over as coach just before the tour of Australia, said, "Pakistan are not as strong as Australia and so we will try to put in a better show," he said. "[The tour] is a testing ground for us and we have to prove our mettle."
Bangladesh's batsmen have, in the past, shown some mettle - but not for long. Their propensity to throw away starts is reflected perfectly in the Test record of their most successful batsman, Habibul Bashar, who has crossed 50 on as many as 13 occasions, but has only one hundred to show for his efforts. Bangladesh have always had silver linings - now they must get rid of that darned cloud.
Pakistan Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Yasir Hameed, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Misbah-ul-Haq, Rashid Latif (capt, wk), Shoaib Akhtar, Umer Gul, Shabbir Ahmad, Danish Kaneria, Saeed Bin Nasir, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Khalil, Farhan Adil.
Bangladesh Khaled Mahmud (capt), Hannan Sarker, Javed Omar, Habibul Bashar, Sanwar Hossain, Mohammad Ashraful, Razin Saleh, Alok Kapali, Mohammad Rafique, Khaled Mashud (wk), Tapash Baishya, Monjurul Islam, Anwar Hossain, Alamgir Kabir, Mashrafe Bin Murtaza.