ABU DHABI: Rival captains Sarfraz Ahmed and Dinesh Chandimal hope the recent two-match Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka will give them a new beginning.
Pakistan want to turn the page after the retirement of their two greats Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq while Sri Lanka will look to lift their recent poor showing in the longer format.
Ahmed, who will lead Pakistan for the first time in Tests, is confident that his team will avail the first opportunity. “Obviously, you have two great players who were playing consistently but you have to move on,” said Ahmed on Wednesday.
“We have to remember the disciplines (of Younus and Misbah) and whatever they told us should be implemented on the field and start afresh,” said Ahmed, who has already led Pakistan in one-day and Twenty20 international.
“This is my first opportunity as captain in Tests, so I will be up for that challenge and my players are also up to that and are very excited at this prospect.”
Pakistan will use experienced batsman Azhar Ali on number three after he opened the innings in the last 12 months and will promote Asad Shafiq from six to four. “We have strengthened our middle order and I am confident that Ali, Shafiq and Babar Azam will be up to the task to complement the batting,” said Ahmed, who also has three Test hundreds.
Ahmed said his team will not underestimate the opponents. “Their team looks good,” said Ahmed of Sri lanka. “They have (Lahiru) Thirimanne and Kushal Silva back so both the teams are young and I think it will be a good series.”
Chandimal believes Sri Lanka have the talent to improve after being thrashed 3-0 at home by India last month. “From that last series we learnt a lot, especially we have done more work on our fitness and fielding. All we need to win is one game and everything will fall into place,” said Chandimal, whose team has lost seven of their last nine Tests, including one against Bangladesh. They also came close to losing to minnows Zimbabwe in July before pulling off a close win.
Chandimal said they can benefit from the retirement of Younus and Misbah. “Actually we can have a very good advantage because the main two batsmen are not there in their batting unit but we will have to step up in our performance as a unit and we have something in our powers to do that.”
If Sri Lanka win the series they will rise one place to sixth in Test rankings while Pakistan will go down one place to seventh. Pakistan’s series win will keep them on their current spot of sixth.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Wahab Riaz
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage.