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Exclusive Interviews

Speaking with PakPassion.net as part of his blog for the website, Aamir Sohail praised the entire Pakistani side on their performance particularly skipper Misbah ul Haq and labelled Saeed Ajmal’s mention of the Teesra ahead of the series, a masterstroke by the off spinner.

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by Saj Sadiq (21st January, 2012)

 

Pakistan’s victory over England at Dubai Sports City was an occasion to savour for Pakistani cricket lovers around the world and of course for the players and backroom staff who were part of the successful squad. It was also a joyous occasion for the trio of former Pakistani captains turned commentators currently in the UAE, Rameez Raja, Waqar Younis and Aamir Sohail, who watched and commented at close quarters on a tremendous victory for Pakistan.

 
Speaking with PakPassion.net as part of his blog for the website, Aamir Sohail praised the entire Pakistani side on their performance particularly skipper Misbah ul Haq and labelled Saeed Ajmal’s mention of the Teesra ahead of the series, a masterstroke by the off spinner.
 
“I was thinking and thinking of a title for Misbah after this excellent victory and I’d heard a lot of talk about Misbah being defensive and negative, but eventually I came up with the title for Misbah of a Cautiously Confident Captain.”  
 
“For me what Pakistan did in the first Test match against England and which was really heartening to see was that they prepared really well.  The Pakistani players knew exactly what they were supposed to do in this match, the field-placings were spot on, the bowlers responded to the captain and I think the masterstroke was when before the series had even commenced, Saeed Ajmal announced that he was going to surprise the England team with a new delivery, the Teesra. As a result of the comment by Saeed (Ajmal) the English batsmen were left trying to fathom out what the Teesra was and what would happen when Ajmal bowled it. In the process, Ajmal forced the England batsmen onto the back foot and they kept on losing wickets on a very flat track. From there on, England could not recover. Ajmal’s mind games were a masterstroke.”
 
Sohail a former opening batsman himself also had high praise for Pakistan’s opening duo of Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar, labelling them a pair of very responsible batsmen. “The way that Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar approached their batting and the way they took on the responsibility of opening the innings was a treat to watch. The opener’s together with their batting colleagues shifted gears in this match. They really upped their game as they knew they were up against the number one ranked Test team and they all went out there and batted responsibly. Hafeez in particular in the last few Test matches had been playing every stroke in the book, but against England he was more responsible and conservative. The batsmen realised that they were up against a strong team and their discipline came to the fore. Discipline hasn’t always been the strength of Pakistani batsmen over the years and even during my playing days at times I lacked discipline and so did some of my teammates, but it’s heartening to see this group of batsmen being very well-disciplined.”  
 
Sohail had no criticism for Andrew Strauss’ decision to bat first, a decision that left England floundering with 5 wickets down at lunch and stated, “When you see a wicket like that in Dubai and you win the toss, yes you are going to go for batting first. Looking at the captains at the toss I felt that Misbah was happy with Strauss’ decision to bat first as he wanted to bowl first, so in the end Strauss’ decision to bat first turned out to be a very good decision for Pakistan.”
 
Much of the debate after the 10 wicket defeat has been around England’s personnel and whether they should have played Monty Panesar, but Sohail wasn’t critical of England’s choice of playing eleven and stated “England went with their winning and successful formula and their fast bowlers bowled well, they dried up the runs and they made the Pakistani batsmen work hard for their runs. But in the first match of a series when you don’t know too much about the pitch, it’s difficult to make a bold decision and change your winning formula. With the benefit of hindsight though, England could have played Monty Panesar, but I think on the whole it was the right decision for England to play three seam bowlers.”
 
England’s struggles against the Pakistan spin duo of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman didn’t surprise Aamir Sohail as the pressure exerted on them strangled their flair and at the crease. Sohail added, “The English batsmen were worried about the Teesra and that’s why they were stuck in the crease. England’s best players of spin Eoin Morgan and Ian Bell were unable to attack the spinners when they came to the crease as the team were under pressure having lost early wickets and if you look back England has not faced such a high class and quality spin attack especially in such conditions. The England batsmen were nervy and short of ideas, but Pakistan should realise that this England team will come back hard at them and Misbah and his team should be prepared for that. The Pakistanis should come out with a strategy in Abu Dhabi where they don’t go into their shells just because they have won the first Test match. Pakistan needs to go into the second Test match in Abu Dhabi with the mindset that they could win the series there.”
 
Critics have stated that the current Pakistani batting line up has a conservative and safety first look to it and doesn’t have the flair of previous top orders for Pakistan. Asked whether he felt that any changes to the starting eleven were required for the Abu Dhabi Test match, Sohail stated, “Pakistan doesn’t need to fiddle with their line up at all, as they are doing a very good job. Asad Shafiq is a very talented batsman and should be given a long run in the side. You look at the makeup of the current Pakistan side and you have to realise that Pakistan has struggled over the years and the team was shattered after the events of 2010 in England. Hat’s off to Misbah ul Haq as he has reunited the team and look at how he has instilled confidence into the team.”
 
“One of Misbah’s best traits though is that he gets the best out of the players. He doesn’t put extra pressure on his teammates and he’s keeping it simple by only asking his teammates to do things which they are capable of. He doesn’t ask the players ‘for the moon’ and he’s just allowing his team to settle down whether it is a One Day International or a Test match.” 
 
“Pakistan doesn’t have to do anything special in future, just keep on playing good cricket and continue to improve. You will see in due course with this group of players that after gaining more confidence they will become more positive.  A sign of a good captain is that he does his homework on the opposition. Misbah just keeps things simple, plays to his strengths and plays on the weaknesses of the opposition.”
 
There were many plus points for the Pakistan side in Dubai but Sohail had special praise for the lively wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal whose gutsy batting on day three gave Pakistan a bigger lead than many had expected.
 
“There are small gestures as a captain in cricket that sometimes go unnoticed. On day two Pakistan lost two quick wickets, those of Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq and the Pakistani lower order were going to be exposed to the new ball. However with Adnan Akmal new at the crease and against the new ball, Misbah had full faith in Adnan and was taking singles and exposing him to the new ball bowling attack of England that had their tails up. If I was in Adnan Akmal’s place and my captain was exposing me against the new ball it would have made me realise that the captain has a lot of faith in me and my batting and that he feels I have the technique to face the new ball against bowlers that were bowling very well. That will have been a huge confidence boost for Adnan and that turned things around for him.”
 
Interim coach Mohsin Khan’s record keeps on improving despite the likelihood that he will be replaced after the ongoing series against England. Sohail though is unimpressed by Khan’s treatment and feels that Khan deserves better treatment.
 
“You have to give Mohsin Khan a chance as he’s doing so well. In the past Pakistan has tried so many coaches from all over the world, big names included. But ever since the day that Mohsin Khan has taken over the role of coach, the face of the Pakistani team has changed. Look at how responsibly the batsmen are playing. There is a consistency in the Pakistan batting and you have to give Mohsin Khan the credit he deserves. There are so many variables when you appoint a foreign coach, is he going to adjust to the culture, is he going to gel in the dressing room. If Mohsin Khan is gelling well in the dressing room then why do you need to change things? I spoke with Mohsin ahead of the third days play in Dubai and he said to me that if we get another 40 or 50 more runs this morning, we will then bowl England out for 170 or so and we will finish this match today. I’m not saying he’s a Prophet who can see into the future, but it shows you just how confident he was in the team and how much faith he has in them and that confidence is being passed down to his team.”
 

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