ABU DHABI // Intikhab Alam is too old to be learning new tricks about media management. The Pakistan coach is 67 now. He has been there, done that, and probably has enough team-issue T-shirts to dress an entire Indian Premier League franchise, including the standard bloated entourage. So when he says his young charges can take positives from their series defeat to Australia in the UAE, you know he is not trotting out a well-honed device to divert attention from his own side's failings.
"You have to remember that for the past six months they have been playing regular cricket," Intikhab said of the world champion Australians, who gained an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series with victory on Friday evening. "They have played against a top team like South Africa. The mindset and fitness level is different to what we have been playing. "I have said it before, I am sure the boys have learned a lot from this series. This is good for us, even though we have lost, which is very disappointing.
"Nobody enjoys losing every day, but I am sure they will learn a great deal from playing against the Australians." He has a point. The only thing Ahmed Shehzad, the 17-year-old newcomer, will not be enjoying about his debut series - other than the adverse results - is that his hero is not playing for the opposition. Shehzad, who already has two years of first-class experience behind him, grew up idolising Ricky Ponting. Australia's regular captain has been rested for the series in the Emirates, leaving Shehzad to make do with Michael Clarke for a role model instead. Some hardship.
Clarke has treated this series as a mini-masterclass, culminating in a regal, match-winning century at the Zayed Stadium on Friday. "He was out of form before this series and suddenly he is in form," the Pakistan skipper, Younus Khan, said of his opposite number. "He has made back to back fifties and is the difference between both the sides. "It is all about our batting. We have only had a couple of fifties [in the series], and compare that to Clarke.
"When he gets an opportunity he makes a big difference. "The wicket is equal for both sides. If you score 240 you will be in good shape, but we get to 20 or 30 and throw our wickets away." @Email:email@example.com