Azhar Ali, the Pakistan Test captain, wants his side to play fearless cricket to reach their goal of reclaiming the No.1 ranking in Tests.
Azhar was part of the team that, under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq, rose to the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings in 2016. Now, with Misbah as coach and chief selector, Azhar is keen to see his team improve their standards.
“My plan is to play fearless cricket,” he told reporters in a video chat. “The target is to prove ourselves as one of the best Test sides and for this, we have to perform exceptionally in home and away series. In our series against England and New Zealand, we need to prove our mettle, as this will be a great step towards becoming a No.1 side.
“We can’t be a No.1 Test team if we win [only] the home series. We need to produce extraordinary results in the away series as well,” he was quoted as saying in The Nation. “In home series, we have to outclass the opponents convincingly … If every player plays fearless cricket, shoulders his responsibility and gives a consistent performance, no one can stop us from achieving our goal.”
Azhar admitted that he and Misbah both came from a defensive mindset, but insisted that was a function of conditions.
“I bat with composure and I take time, that does not mean I am a defensive captain,” he explained. “In Dubai, [if] a fast bowler is bowling, you can’t keep four slips. In Pakistan also, where conditions are flat, you have to have balance.
“I am trying to get rid of the fear factor. They should play with a free mind. That team culture needs to be developed. Every player should think about the team and there should be a relaxed atmosphere. You cannot perform under pressure and with level-headed approach, consistency will come. It will also help in decision-making.”