(Reuters) – Whitewashed in each of their last five test tours of Australia, optimism will be in short supply for Pakistan ahead of a three-match series starting in Perth next week, with new captain Shan Masood’s task made even more difficult by a depleted bowling corps.
The last time Pakistan won a test Down Under was in late 1995 when nearly half of the current side were not even born, and in Pat Cummins-led Australia they face the reigning world test champions.
Pakistan’s unpredictability means they can never be ruled out but their chaotic buildup to the series makes the tourists tough to back in Australia.
Masood inherited the test captaincy from Babar Azam, who stepped down as all-formats skipper last month in the wake of their failure to make the semi-finals of the 50-overs World Cup in India.
Pakistan were not exactly spoiled for choice for the role but in Masood they have a level-headed leader who can shoulder the burden of the test captaincy while allowing Babar to focus solely on being the team’s batting bulwark.
A major concern for Pakistan is their bowling unit, which is usually their strong suit.
Pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi has not looked the same since returning from a knee injury and is a lesser force without Naseem Shah, recovering from a shoulder injury, operating from the other end.
Pakistan could do with the rapid pace of Haris Rauf but he has declined an offer to be part of the test squad – the limited-overs specialist opting instead to play in Australia’s franchise-based Big Bash League.
Masood has asked for 400-plus totals from his batters but that will not be easy on lively Australian pitches against the likes of Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
“It’s the pace and bounce in Australia, along with their pace attack and Nathan Lyon, which you want to get used to and put under pressure from the word go because they’ve dominated world cricket for a while,” Masood said.
The Pakistan captain will hope to have set the tone for their tour with an unbeaten double hundred in the ongoing tour match in Canberra.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford)