Former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson has said that it is going to be an “exceptional challenge” for his country’s side to try and adapt to the Pakistani conditions when the three-match Test series commences in Rawalpindi on March 4.
The Australian cricket team under skipper Pat Cummins flew into Islamabad on Sunday morning to play a Test series on Pakistani soil for the first time since 1998. While Watson is expecting an action-packed series with valuable ICC World Test Championship points up for grabs, he opined that having not played in Pakistan for the last 24 years could work against the tourists.
“I think it is going to be an exceptional challenge for the Australian team to try and adapt to the Pakistan conditions when they haven’t been there for so long and how they will try to develop their game plan. But for world cricket, it is going to be great to get a big tour back to Pakistan and I know Pakistan people are so excited and the fans will be coming out in their droves to watch,” Watson told ICC on Monday.
However, given Australia’s form — they defeated England 4-0 in the five-match Ashes series — Watson is predicting a “thrilling series” between two of the best teams in the world.
“I am super excited as I know how much the Pakistan people have been starved of cricket. They are so cricket obsessed and love nothing more than watching Pakistan play and especially live cricket at home,” said Watson.
Recollecting his days in the country when he played a few matches in the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Watson said it was an “amazing experience”.
“I was fortunate to play a few Pakistan Super League (matches) over there and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in my life. It is brilliant that Cricket Australia have gone to great lengths to make sure they have got all the information they need to make sure the players’ minds are at ease around the security side of things, so it is going to be a brilliant series.”
Australia have named an 18-player squad for the series, with untried quick Mark Steketee recently drafted into the squad to replace the injured Michael Neser and uncapped pace bowler Brendan Doggett remains on standby should any further injury occur.
The Australians have also included three spinners in their touring party, with leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson and left-armer Ashton Agar making the trip to support experienced off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
But Watson has warned Australia against tampering too much with their already strong bowling attack as he doesn’t expect the pitches in Pakistan to offer too much to either bowling line-up.
“From my experience playing the Pakistan Super League, the (pitches in Pakistan) are great batting wickets. The ball doesn’t really turn a lot and certainly not as much as it did when Pakistan played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” opined Watson.
Despite the challenging conditions, Watson picked Australia to come good in the series.
“I would be surprised if Australia don’t get up, just knowing the Australian bowlers and how well they bowled (against England) during the Ashes. It was relentless fast bowling across the board and everyone really complemented each other really well and Pakistan are going to need to bat out of their skins just to stay in the game.
“My gut is telling me Australia will win the series if they score enough runs, as I believe their bowlers will be good enough to put the Pakistan batters under a lot of pressure,” added Watson.
The three-Test series will be followed by three ODIs and a one-off T20I.