In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Pakistan all-rounder Yasir Arafat looks ahead to the New Zealand versus Pakistan Test series, Pakistan's team selection for the series, Mohammad Amir's stint at Essex next year and his own joining SSGC this season.
By Yasir Arafat (13th November, 2016)
New Zealand versus Pakistan
Pakistan has a very good record in New Zealand and there is every chance that could continue this time around. I believe that if they want to succeed in New Zealand they will have to play attacking cricket and aggressive cricket. The seamers need to be told to bowl in an attacking manner rather than relying on containment. The real challenge for Pakistan will be to cope on the seaming early-season tracks in New Zealand and for that reason they should avoid picking bits and pieces players.
I'd like to see Pakistan adopt the attacking policy of six frontline proper batsmen followed by Sarfraz Ahmed, three seamers and Yasir Shah. They will have to break away from their tried and tested formula which has worked for them in the UAE. I've played in New Zealand and there will be moisture in the tracks early as it's the start of the cricket season there and the seam bowlers will need to take advantage of that. Spinners will be less effective and may need to perform a role of containment. I would pick Rahat Ali over Sohail Khan and Imran Khan jr. The reason I would pick Rahat is that his full length should be ideal for New Zealand conditions whereas Sohail Khan is more suited to dry conditions where the ball reverse-swings.
Pakistan's batting in New Zealand
It would be a huge risk for Pakistan to go in with five batsmen and an all-rounder at number six or seven. New Zealand come into the series hurt on the back of a tough series in India and they have made some interesting changes to the squad. The New Zealand seamers will be fired up and will fancy their chances against Pakistan's batsmen in home conditions. It's a big season for New Zealand and Pakistan's main four batsmen, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali will need to be at their best for Pakistan to compete. The Pakistan batsmen need to be positive and not go in their shells, if they adopt a defensive approach that will play into the hands of the New Zealand bowlers.
He's a fantastic batsman but every batsman is vulnerable at the start of their innings. Pakistan need to target him with inswinging deliveries as he is a candidate for leg before early in his innings. The battle between Williamson and Mohammad Amir should be a fascinating one. His strength is his judgement of his off stump and what to play at and what to leave and he has a fantastic temperament. He along with Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Joe Root are currently the best batsmen in the world and it's imperative that Pakistan pick him up early because once he's in, he is very difficult to dismiss and the rest of the New Zealand batsmen can bat around him.
I guess it's the modern way that a Test series consists of just two matches. A two match series barely gives the visiting players a chance to settle into conditions and more often than not leaves everyone wishing there was a third match. I'm not a big fan of two Test series.
Mohammad Amir signing for Essex
It's a fantastic opportunity for Amir to improve and learn as despite him being around in international cricket for a long time he is still quite inexperienced. I learnt more by playing county cricket than I did whilst playing international cricket. He will get the chance to enhance his skills, work with top coaches and work on any of his weaknesses and also get the chance to play in all formats. Over the years many Pakistani cricketers have learnt a lot and improved as cricketers after playing in county cricket and I believe that Mohammad Amir will be the same. I think he will come out of the Essex stint a better cricketer. He's bowled well without a lot of luck but he can use the spell at Essex to refine his skills especially with long spells in the county championship matches. Also the long spells in county cricket will improve his fitness and stamina and that can only be of benefit to Pakistan.
I only played one match for SSGC in the Quaid-E-Azam Trophy before having to come back to England and I thank them for that opportunity. I was amazed at the levels of professionalism at this team. They have adopted a very professional attitude which normally is not the way in Pakistan domestic teams. They have qualified coaches and also have a strength and conditioning coach from England called Richard Stonier who is out in Pakistan working with the SSGC players. From the player's diet to the training plans, it's like an English county cricket team. The set up is a very professional one and one that has been instilled by head coach Atiq-uz-Zaman. Players travel in team blazers and ties, the hotel arrangements are excellent and the players are eating healthy food like fish and pasta instead of the usual currys that you get in Pakistan domestic cricket. I was really pleased to see such a professional setup and I would love to play for SSGC in future as it is so refreshing to see such professionalism.