x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Playing in UAE not quite like playing in Pakistan for Misbah-ul-Haq

Captain of the Pakistan cricket team, who arrive in Dubai on Monday, is confident but dispels notion playing in UAE favours them over England.

Misbah-ul-Haq, centre, who has enjoyed success as captain in recent months, says Pakistan have put a tumultuous time behind them.
Misbah-ul-Haq, centre, who has enjoyed success as captain in recent months, says Pakistan have put a tumultuous time behind them.

Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, says playing England in the UAE will only give them "a slight edge" when they take on the world's No 1 Test team.

Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah have become Pakistan's "home" venues since teams refused to tour the country because of security concerns after gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team bus almost three years ago.

But Misbah dispelled the belief their familiarity with the wickets would give them a big advantage.

"We only have a slight edge due to home conditions because, really, we have played two series at the venues of Abu Dhabi and Dubai – playing at home is totally different," he said. "If we were playing in Pakistan then you could say we have home advantage."

Pakistan have recently played series against South Africa and Sri Lanka in the UAE, and Misbah has been criticised for taking too defensive an approach.

0The captain, however, defended his tactics.

"If you look at the conditions in the UAE, it's not only difficult for bowlers to take wickets, it's also difficult for batsmen to score runs because of slow pitches where the ball doesn't come onto the bat," he said.

"It's better to win by playing defensively instead of losing by playing aggressively."

Misbah, speaking after a four-day training camp in Lahore on Saturday, said he misses playing in his home country.

"Playing in Pakistan is different because you have played so much cricket here that you know every wicket, every ground, and you don't have that advantage [playing abroad]," he said.

"But recently we have played so much cricket in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that it's almost like a home for us; we know the conditions well and I think we have that advantage."

The captain also said the spot-fixing scandal which blew up in the series against England in 2010 was no longer on his players' minds.

The fast bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, and the former captain, Salman Butt, were jailed in England last year for conspiring and cheating during Lord's Test against England.

"Already the team has proved a lot … it's quite clear now that nobody has kept that scandal in his mind and everyone is just focusing on his cricket and will do the same in this series," Misbah told reporters.

Pakistan seem to have overcome the loss of the trio by winning their last three Test series. They also drew the Test series against the West Indies soon after playing the World Cup semi-final last year.

Misbah, 37, has registered victories in Tests, one-day internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20s against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The team also improved their Test rankings by climbing to No 5 after beating Bangladesh late last year.

Misbah said he tries to keep his approach simple for the players.

"Forget about who is your opposition … do right what you can do," he said. "Focus on your performance, do your basics right and then when you look at the results, it will come in your favour."

The Pakistan team leave for Dubai on Monday, with the Test series against England beginning from January 17.

It will be followed by four ODIs and three Twenty20s before the tour ends in late February.

Misbah knows only too well that England boast four top-ranked Test batsmen in Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell.

"England is a thoroughly professional team," he said. "We know we have to do hard work to score runs and bowlers have to bowl well to bowl them out."

While the Pakistan captain praised his batsmen, Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, for scoring consistently over the past six months, fielding still worries him.

"We do lack consistency in the fielding and there were few lapses," he said. "Against top teams you have to perform well in every department to compete."