Waqar Younis has backed Pakistan’s young pace bowlers not to be intimidated in the two Tests against Australia but has warned them about getting carried away by the conditions they are likely to face.
Pakistan, who have never won a series in Australia, have brought three teenage quicks on the trip – Naseem Shah, Muhammad Musa and Shaheen Afridi – with the uncapped 16-year-old Naseem, who could make the starting XI alongside Afridi, generating the most excitement ahead of the Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide.
In his first bowl of the tour, on the final day against Australia A in Perth, Naseem sent down eight rapid overs and produced a brute of a delivery to dismiss Marcus Harris to back up his embryonic first-class return of 27 wickets at 16.66 from seven matches.
Waqar, who toured Australia as a 19-year-old in 1990, is currently Pakistan’s bowling coach and has been passing on advice to the young pacemen but is confident they can stand up against an Australia batting line-up that includes the prolific Steven Smith.
“There will be an intimidating factor, but they have to cope with it and I’m sure these guys will be able to do it,” Waqar said in Sydney as he was honoured by the Bradman Foundation. “I remember my own time when I first arrived in 1989, it’s not an easy place to bowl but with these guys – Mohammad Musa, Naseem Shah, and Shaheen Afridi – I’m really excited. Looking at our attack we have a fair chance of getting Australia [bowled out] early.”
The impressive performance against Australia A – Pakistan reduced them to 9 for 57 in the first innings – has instilled further confidence, but Waqar is alert to the mistakes that many visiting bowlers make. “Sometimes you get carried away because of the bounce, it makes you feel like a world-beater but it’s not the case, you really have to bowl in the right channel to get wickets. That’s my job, to help them out and tell them about bowling in the right areas.
“The advice is the same, that it doesn’t come easy, you have to really put in and keep going. It is going to get tough at times, you have to keep pushing yourself, working on your fitness, because then you’ll bowl quicker, get more wickets. It’s hard work on these big fields, hard pitches, it takes a lot out of you as a teenager and we have to keep our fingers crossed that they stay fit and can challenge the Australians.”
That is also where the more experienced heads will also come in vital. Imran Khan pushed his claims for a recall with 5 for 32 against Australia A while Mohammad Abbas comes with the outstanding Test numbers of 66 wickets at 18.86 including 17 at 10.58 when these teams met in the UAE last year. He is likely to be given the role of longer spells to allow the young quicks to operate in short bursts.
“Abbas is a very smart bowler, he knows what he’s doing, reminds me a bit of Glenn McGrath – he bowls that channel really well,” Waqar said. “He’s been in great form the last time Pakistan played Australia but those pitches were very different. I hope he adapts quickly. Unfortunately he couldn’t play the three-day game because he had a problem with his teeth but hopefully he’ll play the two-day game and be ready.”
Another key figure will be the legspinner Yasir Shah who endured a torrid time on the 2016-17 tour with eight wickets at 84.00 and an economy rate over four. “You are also hoping that Yasir Shah bounces back,” Waqar said. “He didn’t have the best of series last time around. If he can get it right he’ll be a handful.”
Pakistan will continue their preparations for the first Test with a two-dayer against a Cricket Australia XI at the WACA starting on Friday before they head to Brisbane on Sunday.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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