LAHORE: Warning all the contenders not to underrate a ‘sting-crammed’ side like Pakistan in the World Cup, Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq on Monday predicted that New Zealand — despite their recent failures in Bangladesh and India — would be strong opponents on their home soil for his charges in the upcoming Test series.
“I think no one should consider New Zealand’s [poor] performances on Asian pitches and atmosphere, [because] they have always been tough rivals in their home conditions,” Misbah, who will lead Pakistan in the two-Test series in New Zealand next month, said during the national team’s training camp at the Gaddafi Stadium here on Monday.
“Though [Pakistan] beating New Zealand is quite possible, to achieve this every member of the squad has to give his cent per cent. And the entire team have to play quality cricket as a unit,” Misbah, 36, added.
Pakistan, who start their tour to New Zealand on Dec 23 with a one-day warm-up against Auckland, will play their first Test from Jan 7-11 at Seddon Park, Hamilton followed by the second Test at the Basin Reserve, Wellington from Jan 15-19.
Asked if Pakistan’s bowling was potent enough to dismiss New Zealand batsmen in Tests, Misbah said after his bowlers did a commendable job against South Africa on predominantly batting-friendly tracks in the UAE, he hoped they would do better on relatively livelier New Zealand pitches.
“But I believe every department of the game should click to earn positive results. And for that every bowler and batsman needs to keep his confidence level high because this [joint effort] makes a difference,” he insisted.
The skipper said the batsmen, especially newcomers, had also excelled with the willow against the Proteas which he reckoned a good sign for future.
Misbah further said he had no plans to make unnecessary reshuffle in batting line-up for the New Zealand Test matches.
Admitting legendary batsman Javed Miandad’s significance as batting consultant at the training camp, Misbah said it was a good opportunity for the senior and junior batsmen to learn from him.
“No doubt Miandad’s batting tips are serving the batsmen better as improvement is visible there,” Misbah, who has played 21 Tests and 58 One-day Internationals for Pakistan, noted.
About next year’s World Cup — to be staged in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — Misbah believed Pakistan certainly had chance to win the game’s most prestigious title.
“We have the sting, which is necessary to win any tournament. Our team is quite capable to overcome any opposition on a given day and the way our boys are improving no one should underestimate Pakistan in the Word Cup,” Misbah cautioned.
However, he added, the New Zealand tour was crucial for Pakistan to become a strong candidate for the World Cup, emphasising a victory (in New Zealand) would boost the players’ morale for the mega event.
Misbah, who has also featured in 31 Twenty20 Internationals to date, said although Pakistan cricket underwent a very difficult time during 2010, still the team showed sparks in patches.
On the basis of this, he expressed, there were hopes of Pakistan producing an impressive show in the World Cup.
On whether he considered he had no chance for Twenty20s after being excluded from the game’s shortest format for the New Zealand visit, Misbah said: “As far as I am concerned, I am fit for all forms of the game. But it is up to the selectors and the team management to pick [or drop] a player for any version.
“All know how many times my career was considered as ‘over’ but I am here [again],” asserted Misbah, who was sidelined many times in the past.
However, all of a sudden he staged a comeback in the team as captain of the Test side for the South Africa series.
After playing a crucial role in helping Pakistan draw the two-Test series against South Africa, world’s second-ranked side, Misbah managed to retain captaincy for the Tests against the Kiwis too.
On Sunday, Misbah slightly twisted his right ankle while playing football, but the captain said he would join the camp in a couple of days.