Pakistan news May 8, 2013

Pakistan focus on fitness in Abbottabad camp

Pakistan's cricketers focused primarily on fitness and batting skills during the six-day training camp in Abbottabad, which concluded on Wednesday, ahead of the Champions Trophy in England. The players returned to their hometowns and will reassemble on Monday in Lahore before departing for Scotland.

The weather in Abbottabad, at an altitude of 1260m, remained pleasant throughout the camp and the players took part in some practice matches. Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said the players had ample time to gel.

"The purpose of coming here was that the team should train without any distractions," Misbah said. "It's a bit cooler here and the pitches had offered some movement for the batsmen to cope with."

Misbah also said the players needed to pay more attention to fitness. "We are seeking improvement in fitness, at least close to the requirements of international cricket. We are not there yet but we are trying to hit the benchmark.

"During the camp, you must have seen that fielding is directly associated with your level of fitness and we are working on both," Misbah said. "We understand that if your fitness and fielding does not improve you will suffer in international cricket, especially in T20 and one-day cricket."

Misbah said the team's defeats in South Africa had made his players mentally stronger. "In South Africa we played some tough cricket in tough conditions and the boys will benefit from it mentally. You get ready to face difficulties and I think our performance will be good in the Champions Trophy."

Opening batsman and T20 captain Mohammad Hafeez had rigorous net sessions, mainly working on his technique against seam bowling. Hafeez had a poor tour of South Africa, where he scored only 43 runs in the Tests and 118 in the ODIs, and was dismissed by Dale Styen on six occasions.

Pakistan's coach Dav Whatmore said it was more of a skills camp. "Obviously this is not the northern hemisphere, but it's a destination where we can achieve a few things," he said. "This is not a conditioning camp, this is skills camp because we are close to the competition. We are pretty happy with what we got, we had some bad (rainy) weather on Sunday but we managed to get 70 overs for ample match practice."

Pakistan had lost the Test series in South Africa 3-0 but fared better in the one-dayers, losing 3-2. "In the last series we were one game from winning the series," Whatmore said. "We are okay, we just needed to improve on a couple of areas and we would have been a series winner.

"Chances in the Champions Trophy is difficult to predict accurately, but I tell you what this team has got the ability. If we play to our potential we can put pressure on any team. Our goal is obviously to win it."

Pakistan will play two ODIs each against Scotland and Ireland later this month before taking on West Indies, South Africa and India in its Champions Trophy Group B matches.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here

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