Pakistan in Zimbabwe 2011 August 30, 2011

Young Pakistan geared for step up


Pakistan would have been forgiven if they had arrived at Queens Sports Club with heavy legs and weary expressions. They touched down in Bulawayo via Dubai and Johannesburg on Friday afternoon and had to put on their game faces immediately to start a two-day tour match on Saturday. The fixture ended in a draw but instead of being allowed to put their feet up on the morning after, they were handed the early training slot on Tuesday.

They could have rubbed their eyes, lumbered lazily through their drills, dragged their bodies through the motions, and generally acted jaded. But, they didn't. The session was driven by enthusiasm, and energy flowed through the initial kicking of a football around to the more intricate fielding moves and then into the nets, where some of them batted a little longer than the usual two-and-a-half hours. That's the value of youth, something Pakistan's squad has in abundance for this tour.

Four of their players yet to make their Test debuts, and five others have played only 24 matches between them. With the next most experienced player, Umar Akmal, having only 15 Test caps, it's safe to say Pakistan are in possession of a bouncing group of boys. "It is exciting," the coach Waqar Younis said. "And it is also easier to deal with them."

With Waqar on his last legs as national coach, a less complicated passage to the exit sign is seemingly what he would prefer - no politics, no infighting, no-one trying to steer anyone in any direction. Waqar believes that's what he has got, too. "A tour like Zimbabwe is a good tour to introduce some youngsters, it's a short tour and it gives them a good opportunity to play top-level cricket," he said. "Youngsters bring a different flair to the game. We have three formats, so we will try to make sure everybody plays."

In some ways, the youthful make-up of the squad could be mistaken for flippancy by Pakistan, who may stand accused of taking Zimbabwe too lightly. Waqar did not take kindly to that notion, having insisted on departure that the series was a significant one. "I have worked for Pakistan for 18 months and this tour is as important to me as any other," he said. "We know that Zimbabwe are eager, hungry and want to prove a point."

Luckily, Pakistan's seemingly inexperienced side has a strong core and sprinkled among their boys, they have some men. Younis Khan is one of them, as the most experienced Test player in the squad. For him, this tour will be about creating the rite of passage for the younger members of the squad to gain experience at the highest level. "I am just going to try all the time to show them [the youngsters] the way, especially in Test cricket," Younis said. "When you are young, you may make some mistakes so my aim is to help them."

Younis has over 5000 Test runs and has played for more than a decade, so he has ingrained in him all the qualities of a respected leader and a fatherly figure. He said he would like to pass some of that knowledge on, because he may not be around to actually demonstrate it for long. "I will be playing for another two or three years," he said. "So, I want to show them [the youngsters] how to be able to score 500 or 600 in a Test match."

With Younis focusing on batting, captain Misbah-ul-Haq chose to zone in on the bowling developments. "Our youngsters are performing well in domestic cricket, especially Junaid Khan and Sohail Khan, who will have to learn to be senior fast bowlers," he said. Junaid took 4 for 62 in the tour match and will shoulder wicket-taking responsibilities into the Test match. He might get an opportunity to bowl in tandem with Sohail Khan, and together they could make an attacking new-ball pair.

The match will be about "trying out different combinations" according to Misbah and reintroducing players like Imran Farhat who last played against England last year and Sohail Tanvir who was last seen against India in 2007. "Winning is important, but this is also about team-building for us," Misbah said. But experimentation is not likely to give way to complacency, as Pakistan showed in their training session - actions that showed Zimbabwe this will be a tougher Test than their previous one, against Bangladesh.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Amjad on September 1, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster: Yes its true we need ten good test teams but India wont tour or host zim for the next eight or so years just because there is no money in it doesn't help zim situation isnt it a bit of shame some teams just cant think outside the money box?

  • Jay on August 31, 2011, 15:53 GMT

    @Ahsan_Shere: Speaking of arrogance and complacency, your comment is full of that. Confidence is prudent only when you wield it wisely. This Zimbabwe team is a much better team than your U-19 Pakistan team which is why they are back in test cricket. Your senior Pakistani team could only manage 220 odd in a tour match. Let's see how well they fare in the tests. Respect for the opposition is a prime virtue of sport. I hope the Pakistani team doesn't reflect your attitude or they could be embarrassed.

  • Jay on August 31, 2011, 15:48 GMT

    Pakistan should not treat Zimbabwe lightly. If they become complacent, Zimbabwe will hurt them badly. For the sake of test cricket I hope Zimbabwe give a tough time to Pakistan. We need 10 good test nations, not just passengers. Good luck to Zimbabwe, play well and hopefully you can win.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2011, 7:48 GMT

    I think every team withheld some youngsters around so they can be given a major role at any time in Pakistan case we dont have gud senior players around so these guys have to learn quickly and act maturely Umar Akmal is amazing Adnan Akmal can be good Raza Hassan is also a gud bowler huge talent but need experience so teams like Zimbabwe should a great option for getting experience looking forward to it and Best of Luck Pakistan

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2011, 6:02 GMT

    Mind you all that this was not the misfiring Zimbabwe team. Pakistan will take Zimbabwe lightly at their own risk .They are going to be burned by a side that is eager to make a statemnent.

  • Ahsan on August 31, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    Winning a match against this Zimbabwe team is not a big task for Pakistan's U-19 either....

  • Nick on August 30, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    How many of these young players will be chosen and fail ( because they were picked too young ) and have to wait 10 years before getting another chance while the selectors churn through and destroy other young talent.

  • Tom on August 30, 2011, 20:17 GMT

    The average age of Indian( first test against England) is close to mid 30's which is quite a few years more than Pakistan and in terms of Test experience and ( # of years in the Test arena) they are way ahead than Pakistan. I don't know about other teams but I am sure they are among the top 3 young test sides.

  • Ryo on August 30, 2011, 20:01 GMT

    @stark62: The older guys are getting picked because they're good, and the team needs their experience. The Pakistan team cannot do without Misbah and Younis in Test matches. This series is already gonna see at least 3 debutants, with at least 3-4 more with hardly any experience between them playing. Or would you prefer if they sent their U-19 team over??

  • Stark on August 30, 2011, 19:35 GMT

    @ andyzaltshair

    If those older guys aren't going to be around in the future then why pick them?

    I'm just questioning the title of this article which has the word "young" included into it but I don't like the fact that most of the squad is full of old players.

    Also, isn't this series the best time to test your youngsters?

    Are you gonna pit them against the no. 1 team Eng?

    Yes, 25-26 is young in Australia! :)

  • No featured comments at the moment.