Pindi gears up again for Test cricket under cloudy weather
Pakistan\'s Naseem Shah bowls as teammates Haris Sohail and Bilal Asif look on during a practice session. AFP
Bangladesh\'s cricketers take part in a practice session at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium. AFP
Cricket action returns yet again to Pindi Cricket Stadium Friday when Pakistan will take on Bangladesh in the first Test of the series.
Both the teams arrived at Pindi Stadium on Thursday morning and had almost two hours practice session. The main attraction of Pakistan team practice was the youngsters were invited from different clubs, who bowl at Pakistani batsmen, while head coach, chief selector and batting consultant Misbah-ul-Haq was training the batsmen. He was passing on directives to club bowlers to bowl at particular line and length. Azhar Ali, Misbah and chief curator were also involved in a lengthy discussion at the centre of the pitch.
Bangladeshi team players were looking highly happy and satisfied and their faces were telling the exact story that they were enjoying the weather and the hospitality of the PCB. Bangladesh’s main focus in the was on fast bowling as they practiced mainly on fast bowlers and mainly batted for longer period of time.
PCB Director International Cricket, Zakir Khan was roaming around to different corners of the ground, while there were not even handful spectators, allowed to enter the venue during the practice session.
Earlier, security forces had cordon off entire area from where both cricket team busses make their ways towards the stadium. Traffic remained at standstill for commoners for around an hour or so, which led to long queues. Despite clear directives regarding team movements issued a day earlier, public continued to use main roads, which were opened for traffic once the both teams reached stadium. Security was very tight in and around the stadium as usual and only those who had accreditation cards and parking stickers were allowed to reach venue.
As per expectations massive crowd was standing on both sides of the road and they were chanting slogans in favour of not only Pakistan team but also were highly appreciative for Bangladeshi cricket team for making the day possible. It was huge fun, festivity and a highly pumped up crowd with mainly youth who were running to catch a glance of their heroes. As the busses crossed the road, few of the Pakistani players waved at the youngsters and also send flying kisses, which further charged up the youngsters.
Overall, security arrangements were although strict, but the persons deployed at different entrance points were quiet cordial and were letting genuine card holders make their way into the stadium.
Weather remains concern
Weather can once again hamper the festivity as dark clouds remained hovering over the stadium throughout the day. It looks like the way Pakistani team management had brought spinners from different clubs, Misbah is aware of Bangladeshi spin bowling threat and there is every possibility, Pakistan team will use batting-friendly track for the first Test. It is most likely that Fawad Alam will once again warm the bench and Pakistan will enter with four specialist bowlers and Haris Sohail may retain his place in the playing XI. Imam-ul-Haq will have to once again carry the water bottles as 12th man. As per indications coming out form the dressing room and team management, especially from head coach Misbah, Pakistan is most likely going to retain same team, which played last Test against Sri Lanka at National Stadium, Karachi.
Pindi wicket is traditionally a fast bowlers paradise as there is always slot of help for the pace bowlers but it is yet to be seen, whether Misbah and Azhar will opt for grassy wicket or they would be happy to play on placid track. Omens are fully in favour of hosts, as Bangladeshi team looks highly weak in the absence of banned Shakib ul Hasan and former skipper and wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim.
Bangladesh will heavily rely on spinners to produce wonders and Pakistan hold huge edge on Bangladesh and there is every possibility if weather permits five days of cricket, Pakistan will register convincing victory.
The writer is a freelance journalist