Finally, it is no longer the United Arab Emirates that Pakistan have to fall back on to host their Tests.
A middling 2019 World Cup campaign and poor results over the past year in Tests meant Pakistan underwent sweeping changes in management prior arriving in Australia.
Mickey Arthur was replaced as Pakistan coach by Misbah-ul-Haq and, with that, the team got new captains as well in different formats. Sarfaraz Ahmed’s axing as Test skipper was a long time coming as the results over the past year or so hadn’t been the best.
They had lost to New Zealand and Sri Lanka in the UAE and were whitewashed by South Africa away earlier this year. Azhar Ali takes over the Test captaincy with a young team and a new management on this very tough Australian tour.
Australia is pretty much the toughest country to tour for Pakistan, as they haven’t managed to win a single Test in the last 24 years. The biggest issue this time around is not their batting – as it has historically been – but their bowling.
They have some experienced hands with the bat, like captain Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, to guide this young team but, with the ball, they don’t much experience on these pitches down under.
Their bowling is led by Mohammad Abbas whose career is just 14 Tests old. The problem is not only the lack of experience but also the kind of bowlers they have picked.
Imran Khan Jr and Mohammad Abbas are similar. Both operate at a pace less than 135 km/hr and bowl fuller lengths trying to get the ball to swing. Abbas, who has been brilliant in England and has had successful county stints there, was well but struggled on bouncy South African pitches earlier this year.
Imran Khan Jr hasn’t played an international game for over three years. Both aren’t going to find too much swing with the Kookaburra ball at the Gabba except for few overs at the start.
The biggest problem after the initial overs will be the lack of pace from their experienced bowlers once the ball loses its shine. The fact that Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz decided to retire from the longest format of the game did not help.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is a sure starter, probably has the pace and height to trouble the Aussie batsmen but, again, this will be just his fourth Test. Naseem Shah is an impressive talent and he impressed one and all with his pace in the practice games.
If he does get a chance to play ahead of Imran Khan Jr, it will be interesting to see how he holds up fitness-wise. He is just a 16-year-old kid who has a grand total of seven first-class games to his credit.
Yasir Shah, who will be their lead spinner, had a horror tour to Australia last time and struggled in South Africa earlier this year as well. This makes the bowling selection for the first Test interesting, with Abbas and Shah the only certainties at this point.
Pakistan haven’t been the best Test team over the last couple of years and, with the upcoming games being the start of the World Test Championship, they would be hoping for a miracle against a team flying high after an impressive Ashes show.
While the Pakistan batting might hold, their bowling attack does not seem to have the experience or skill on the hard pitches they are going to encounter here.