Batting key as Pakistan jet off to New Zealand

Coach Intikhab Alam identified batting as the key area for improvement as a 17-member Pakistan squad minus Younus Khan flew to New Zealand early Sunday to play a three-match Test series.
Younus opted to sit out the New Zealand tour and hand the captaincy to Mohammad Yousuf after his side’s one-day series defeat in Abu Dhabi last week, saying he wanted to rest after suffering poor batting form.
Yet it was not only him, the batsmen faltering badly in the one-day series which New Zealand won 2-1. Pakistan won the two-match Twenty20 series 2-0 here on Friday.
“Our batting must click and show improvement because it will be tough to switch from one-day and Twenty20,” Alam told AFP. “Our bowling has the capacity to bowl New Zealand out twice but we must put runs on the board first.”
Alam, who took over as coach after Australian Geoff Lawson was sacked in October last year, said Younus’s absence was a blow, but appeared to harbour no bitterness.
“Naturally, Younus is a senior batsman and although he had a poor batting form he is a world class player who can come good any time, but you miss players through injuries as well and Younus’s replacement will have a chance to prove his worth.
“Batsmen will have to show temperament because you need to stay longer at the wicket, which is the real test of a batsman.”
Pakistan open the tour with a three-day game against a New Zealand invitational XI at Queenstown from Wednesday before the first Test starts at Dunedin from November 24.
Alam said conditions in New Zealand will also test his players.
“It is an early start to the season and conditions will be tough because the weather will be very cold but I hope all the players show professionalism and adjust to the conditions,” said Alam, a former captain.
The three-Test series, like the limited-overs series played in the United Arab Emirates, was scheduled for Pakistan but had to be relocated after New Zealand refused to tour over security fears.
Alam said New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori will be key for the home team.
“Vettori is a seasoned player and we have to play him well, without giving him too many wickets.
“But if New Zealand prepares wickets conducive to spin then we too have quality spinners in Saeed Ajmal and Danish Kaneria,” said Alam, a leg-spinner in his playing days.
After the New Zealand tour, Pakistan will move to Australia to play three Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20.

Squad: Salman Butt, Khurrum Manzoor, Imran Farhat, Mohammad Yousuf (capt), Shoaib Malik, Fawad Alam, Faisal Iqbal, Kamran Akmal (wk), Danish Kaneria, Saeed Ajmal, Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamir, Abdur Rauf, Umer Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmad.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2009