KARACHI: Legendary Pakistan fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar has raised concerns over the fitness of the Pakistani bowlers in the upcoming two-Test series against England.
Akhtar, who holds the record for bowling the fastest bowl in the cricket history, expressed those views while talking to The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
“Bowlers’ fitness is my primary concern,” said Akhtar. “They are not performing consistently precisely because of that. All of them play too many T20 and 50-over matches and that’s their focus. But the real deal is Test cricket, where fitness becomes a real issue. You have to be extremely fit to bowl three or four spells in a day and I don’t see that with this current bowling lot. Amir was limping in Ireland, Hasan Ali is not fit either and Rahat Ali is not assured of his role. I think even he can’t decide if he is an attacking bowler or a defensive bowler. In such circumstances, it is natural to believe that Pakistan will have a really tough time in England.”
Akhtar, who represented Pakistan in 46 Tests, 163 ODIs and 15 T20Is, claiming a total of 444 wickets along the way, believes the tour will also be tough for the batsmen.
“This is a new era and people need to step up, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in particular because they are the seniors,” he said. “But apart from that, I genuinely believe our batting is not equipped to playing well in seaming conditions. We are unsure about conditions because we are not acclimatised. We’ve seen this in Ireland where there was a bit of moisture on the track and our batting struggled. So I think it’s going to be a huge test for the batsman as they will be tested against the best in the world.”
However, the former pacer believes the side won’t just take it lying down. “Having said all that, I have full confidence in the Pakistan team. I want them to fight and get in the game. If they get good conditions, they should capitalise on them. I believe this team has the potential to produce good results. They have the talent, but we have to see if it gets converted into performances. If they perform well in Tests then they can have my vote because I don’t feel that becoming number one in T20Is or doing well in ODIs means anything to be honest. But even then my vote is for Pakistan and I really hope they will do well. I really want this team to go up the ladder as only that will give me satisfaction.”
Akhtar also backed Babar Azam to produce the goods in the whites and asked him to be a little aggressive.
“I don’t think criticism on Babar is fair,” he said. “I don’t understand why he stops himself from playing shots. Go out there and play shots. He needs to step up, he has talent and skills, but he need to deliver for the team.”
Talking about captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s role in the upcoming series, Akhtar believes the wicketkeeper-batsman needs to focus on his form and fitness to avoid criticism.
“Sarfraz needs to work on his fitness, needs to work on his batting as well,” he said. “If he won’t perform, he will be under pressure and there will be discussions in the media about his position. Also, his fitness remains questionable as well. It takes a lot out of a wicketkeeper-batsman to first keep wickets, then come at five or sixth in the batting order and then work on his captaincy as well. If Pakistan pull this off with some good results, this is going to be a great victory for the team.”