Out of 11 players in the current Pakistan starting eleven, eight have been unfortunate to have never played a Test match on their home soil. The apprehension of teams to tour Pakistan has resulted in the United Arab Emirates hosting the ‘home’ matches for them. Aayush Puthran feels the team has embraced the conditions well and look comfortable and dominant like one would in home conditions.
‘Home is where the heart is’ would be a cruel thing to say to the current Pakistani team; for not many players have yet realised the dream of playing in front of their ‘real home’ crowd in the country. In the current team that is playing against South Africa in the first Test, no one apart from Younis Khan, Khurram Manzoor and Misbah-ul-Haq has played a Test in Pakistan. The rest have had to accept Abu Dhabi as their home, their den, their zone of comfort.
If at all there were any doubts, as to how well they have adapted to conditions in the Gulf, throw in their records, and you would know that they are yet to be defeated since the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009 forced international cricket in Pakistan to be shifted to the Middle East.
After contesting in a hard fought series-leveling draw against a dominant South Africa in 2010-11 and a 1-0 win against the Sri Lankans in 2011-12, they humbled the then No 1 Test side England 3-0 in 2012. But their batting seems to display the quality seen at club level. Their recent loss against Zimbabwe in the second Test proves just that.
But the first two days of the ongoing first Test against South Africa has just brought to light how well their young batsmen like Manzoor and Shan Masood can tackle the likes of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel — the best pace attack in the world. It is not to suggest that the pitch has offered batsmen too much help, but it is the same pitch where Pakistani bowlers made merry against a really strong batting order a day before.
Before the series started, it seemed like the mighty South Africans would prove too strong for a side that has seemed to have lost its way a little too much than usual. Yet at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Pakistan showed how comfortable and secured they were with the conditions, as good as anyone is expected to feel at home.
Even as Pakistan have not boasted as good a record in UAE in the shorter formats, they have been far better than the other places they have played.
Pakistan are playing a Test series in the make-shift home ground after a gap of two years. The last time they played a One-Day International (ODI) in UAE was in August 2012 against Australia. One wonders how well the team will shape up if they play more often in the country; given the apprehension the visiting teams have had in touring Pakistan. Will they continue to succeed as well as they have done in the past and make it a home away from home, or burst the bubble on a rare display of brilliance?
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)