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January 6, 2012
Ramiz Raja, the former Pakistan captain, has urged the players in the current national team to assume they are in a war when they take on England in the UAE. The last time Pakistan played England in a Test series, the spot-fixing scandal broke. Ramiz said winning the upcoming series would be the perfect way for Pakistan to seal their strong comeback from that embarrassment, and calm the anger among fans that arose from it.
"Players should assume themselves to be in a state of war in every match to maintain consistency in their performances," Ramiz said at a function arranged by the PCB to celebrate the team's impressive performance in 2011. "I think this is the best opportunity for the Pakistan team to avenge the disgrace of the spot-fixing scandal; all the frustration in the wake of that embarrassment should be exhibited in the form of performances on the field.
"England might be a strong opponent but beating a top team is the only way to become a hero. There is always room for improvement but there must be self-belief and strong body-language. The team must play hard cricket with no smiles or sympathy towards the opponent. Ultimately winning against England is the best way to cool down the anger and frustration that Pakistan fans felt after the spot-fixing scandal."
Ramiz said the current team should try to replicate the culture that Imran Khan had instilled in the team Ramiz was a part of. "During my era, Imran Khan, prior to every match, told us to assume we are in a war and never think about how powerful or depleted the opponent is; what is important is to go onto the field thinking only of victory."
Pakistan went through 2011 without losing a Test series, and go into this series after beating Zimbabwe away, Sri Lanka in the UAE and Bangladesh away. The PCB recognised the successful year by giving the players 300,000 Pakistani rupees ($3,307) each and the supporting staff 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,102) each.
In a low point for Pakistan cricket, Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were handed jail sentences for spot-fixing by an English tribunal in 2011. On the field, though, Pakistan won five of eight Tests, reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and won six bilateral one-day series. Ramiz said the team had already won back the fans. "Pakistan have already made a strong comeback in the world of cricket after the spot-fixing scam. They have won back the fans' faith and have regained credibility.
"We have outstanding new faces in the line-up and a heavyweight middle order. Our bowlers, both the pacemen and spinners, are among the best when it comes to taking wickets so I am not worried about that. Umar Akmal [the batsman who is returning to the Test squad after being dropped for two series] is the one from whom I am expecting a lot and I am hopeful he won't disappoint us."
Pakistan's recent success has come under the leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq, who was handed the Test captaincy in September 2010, after the spot-fixing episode. Misbah was not even a part of the squad who went on the tour of England but since returning to the side has averaged 75.76 in Tests and 49.75 in ODIs, a major factor in the team's success.
"The journey of the Pakistan team in the past year has been similar to the journey of my life," Misbah said. "It [not being in the side] was one of the toughest times not only in my career but in my life as well; but I never give up. Since I was called up to lead the team I obviously had to justify my position as a batsman too.
"The South Africa Test series in the UAE [that Pakistan drew 0-0 in November 2010] was when we realised we could do it. It was the series that actually gave us the self-belief and confidence that we can move ahead, leaving everything in the past; we never looked back.
"I think the success in 2011 was due to the fact that as many as 15 players in the squad fulfilled their responsibilities and I am sure they will keep up the good work in 2012. I am sure the boys will continue their hard work, show responsibility and play to their potential against England, who are the best Test team at the moment. We know how tough it is going to be, so we are ready for that."
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