Waqar Younis was reappointed as the head coach of the Pakistan cricket team in June 2014 © Getty Images
Former Pakistan opening batsman Mudassar Nazar has had two stints as head coach for Pakistan and is now the head coach at the ICC Global Cricket Academy in Dubai. In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Mudassar previewed Pakistan’s upcoming tour of Sri Lanka with special emphasis on the two match Test series where he spoke about the possible impact of the new coaching staff, the selection of Umar Akmal in the Test squad, Younis Khan in the one day squad and Pakistan’s chances of success at the Sri Lankan stronghold of Galle.
Excerpts from the interview:
PakPassion (PP): Impact of Coaching Staff headed by Waqar Younis
Mudassar Nazar (MN): “All three of the coaches are very experienced. Both Waqar [Younis] and Mushtaq [Ahmed] have played cricket in Sri Lanka many times so they are no strangers to those conditions and [are] in prime position to guide the players as to what to expect in terms of playing conditions. They also know how to tackle the threat of some of the main Sri Lankan players and that will undoubtedly stand in good stead for Pakistan. Grant Flower is also no stranger to international cricket so all in all, Pakistan have the right setup for this tour. As long as Waqar and [Shahid] Afridi can bury the hatchet in terms of any differences and both pull in the same direction for Pakistan, which I am sure they will, Pakistan will do well on this tour.”
PP: Waqar’s presence and expected improvements in the fast bowling performance during the tour and beyond
MN: “I expect an improvement from the Pakistani fast bowlers with Waqar as coach. Even in his last stint as coach, the fast bowling department had started to do really well. Hopefully, we should also see a marked improvement in this area during the upcoming series against Sri Lanka and beyond as well.”
“Let me add that it’s not just fast bowling, but the overall impact of his coaching will also be a positive one for Pakistan as we saw in his previous tenure as coach. At that time, he didn’t really have a great team to look after — just 2 or 3 players were good but the rest were very ordinary. However, even in those circumstances, Waqar had some good results to show.”
PP: Potential improvements and importance of Grant Flower and Mushtaq Ahmed for the upcoming series
MN: “In terms of the batting for this tour, we have a good coach in Grant Flower but I feel that this is too short a period for us to judge him. Flower was recently with the Zimbabwe team, so it’s not as if he has not been involved in coaching in recent times. He will have his work cut-out to improve the quality of the Pakistan batting but he has the record, both as a fielder and a batsman, to give some good quality feedback to the Pakistan batting which will be crucial for this tour.”
“Our spin department is competent enough with the likes of Saeed Ajmal and can handle things well during this series but let us not under-estimate the role of a spin coach such as Mushtaq Ahmed. All of us as players, as good as we maybe, can become lazy during tours and not do the basics right. Someone like Mushtaq will be instrumental in making sure that the spin department carries on its good work. He will also be providing sound tactical help as necessary and that will surely make a lot of difference.”
PP: The return of Umar Akmal to the Test Squad and what he can do to cement his place for the future
MN: “I am very pleased that Umar Akmal is in the Test squad. He deserves a chance and I am puzzled by the fact that he is making a comeback after almost 3 years and that he was discarded and written off as a Test player in the first place. For a young man, that is very hard to take and I am pleased that he has kept his head and continued to strive to make a comeback in Tests. I hope that whenever he is selected, he will learn from his past mistakes and prove himself by staying on the crease and not commit the same mistakes as he has done in the past. I feel that he rushes too much and should really take stock of the situation and adjust his style of play accordingly. He obviously needs to be much tighter with his technique, as you should be if you are playing in the top four of the batting line up in a Test match. In this format of the game, there is very little room for error and opponents will zoom in on your weaknesses.”
PP: Can Umar Akmal displace Asad Shafiq as first choice during the Sri Lanka series?
MN: “I don’t think Asad should feel any pressure due to the inclusion of Umar Akmal in the Test squad. There is always pressure on players to perform and that really is part and parcel of the game and they need to learn to handle this stress. Sometimes this works in your favour as you concentrate a bit more and work harder. Some players just buckle under the strain of such pressures. I just hope that Asad will strive do better for Pakistan.”
“In terms of who amongst Asad or Umar should be given preference, my vote goes to Asad as he has a good record in this form of cricket. This is a two-match Test series where opportunities for experimentation are limited. Ideally, I would like both of them to play and take on the Sri Lankan bowling attack but if there is a choice to be made between Asad and Umar, then I would prefer Asad due to his experience.”
PP: The return of Younis Khan to the ODI squad and why it’s important for Pakistan’s chances in the ODI series
MN: “The 50 over format, although marked as a short form, can be a long day’s cricket depending on the match situation. You need someone, an old hand, to steady the ship if quick wickets fall. Younis Khan is the ideal candidate for that and his return to the ODI squad is completely justified especially since we have to look beyond the upcoming Sri Lanka Series and towards the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. In those conditions and bouncy pitches, his batting experience to take Pakistan through 50 overs will be vital. I just hope that if he doesn’t do well in this series, the selectors show some foresight and keep him in contention for later series leading up to the mega event.”
PP: How Pakistan will adjust to, and fare in conditions to be encountered in Sri Lanka
MN: “The wicket in Colombo is supposed to be a batting wicket but the one in Galle will turn. All in all, the pitches in Sri Lanka should be very similar to what Pakistan players would have encountered at home or even in the UAE and I don’t see a major problem there.”
What Pakistan can take away from the Sri Lankan defeat against South Africa at their “fortress” in Galle.
PP: What Pakistan can take away from the Sri Lankan defeat against South Africa at their “fortress” in Galle?
MN: “Pakistan can definitely take a lot of heart from the South African victory. The fact is that any ordinary South African side would have not stood a chance in Galle. However, one should note that South Africa in their ranks, have the world’s best Test bowler in the shape of Dale Steyn. He bowled with pace and more importantly reverse swung the ball which made this victory possible. He may not have been as good as Wasim [Akram] or Waqar in the reverse swing department, but he tore through the Sri Lankan line-up and made them look ordinary.”
“Now Pakistan also have a good pace attack. Although no one of the calibre of Steyn but enough to make a difference and if the ball does reverse in Galle, they should also be able to make it count. Regardless of the pace angle, the Galle wicket takes spin and Pakistan has one of the best practitioners of this trade in their ranks in the form of Saeed Ajmal. Pakistan has a great chance to win the Test match in Galle.”
PP: Given the nature of the SSC pitch in Colombo, will Galle be the pitch where the Test series will be won or lost?
MN: “Galle has always been a results orientated pitch. The ball takes turn and because of the ground’s proximity to the sea, there is always a strong breeze which really helps with reverse swing. In my view, if there is a result in this series, it will definitely happen in Galle.”
“Now, Pakistan haven’t been that impressive in reverse swinging the ball in the recent past but to me when the person coaching this side is one of the greatest exponents of this art, then Pakistani bowlers will have the best chance to rectify any shortcomings in this area and make reverse swing count during this series.”
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)