x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Pakistan’s Abu Dhabi win not surprising for Dav Whatmore

The Australian coach always had faith the ‘home’ team would rebound from Test defeat in Zimbabwe, reports Paul Radley.

Pakistan cricket fans may not know what to expect from their cricketers, but the team management remain confident always. AFP
Pakistan cricket fans may not know what to expect from their cricketers, but the team management remain confident always. AFP

DUBAI // Pakistan supporters should be concerned. After last week’s rousing triumph over South Africa in Abu Dhabi, the mood is eerily tranquil.

Everything is apparently rosy in the garden – and when has that ever been a recipe for success for the Pakistan national team?

When they lost to lowly Zimbabwe in their most recent outing, everyone should have expected them to bounce back and comprehensively beat the world’s No 1 side. It is just what they do.

Midway through the South African series, it was announced that the Pakistan Cricket Board’s governing members had been replaced by Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister.

These are the sort of conditions upon which Pakistan’s national team traditionally thrive, so the ease with which they disposed of the Proteas was no stunner, really.

“I wasn’t surprised we did well,” Dav Whatmore, the Pakistan coach, said after his side’s session at the ICC Academy on Sunday.

“Leading up to this series, people in Pakistan were saying, ‘Gee, you lost to Zimbabwe, now you are going to play the No 1 team in the world – no chance’.

“In my mind, there was never any doubt we could be competitive.

“We were better-prepared, the conditions were different and we had a change in our playing personnel.

“These things do matter, but unfortunately, there are people who just look at the surface and don’t think about anything else.”

Russell Domingo, South Africa’s coach, may be relatively new to the international game, but he was still well aware of Pakistan’s capabilities.

If there was anyone who did underestimate the nominal home side’s credentials ahead of this series, he was not one of them, he said.

“When Pakistan play well, the only people who are surprised are the media or the public,” Domingo said.

“Us, as opposition and cricket people, aren’t surprised. They have a rich cricket history and culture and have produced some of the best players of all time. We aren’t surprised they played well.”

Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain whom Whatmore described as the team’s “general”, hopes the number of Pakistan supporters at the Dubai Test matches the turnout in Abu Dhabi.

The grass banks in Abu Dhabi were encouragingly well populated, which is a sight rarely seen in the sport’s longest format in this part of the world.

The first Test coincided with the Eid holiday, meaning more people had time off work, but Misbah is hopeful supporters will take advantage of the free admission for the opening session in Dubai on Wednesday.

“The support in Abu Dhabi was wonderful, especially in a Test match with so many people really cheering for the team and backing the players,” Misbah said.

“You normally only get this sort of support in one-dayers, but in a Test match, it really was something special and I think it really helped the team to fight and do well in difficult situations.”