‘Hopefully we will all be united and with Amir, and we will allow him to bowl really well and get wickets for Pakistan’ – Azhar Ali © AFP
Azhar Ali has said he and Mohammad Amir had “moved on” from the complications that beset Amir’s reintegration to the Pakistan team, in the approach to the New Zealand tour. He said he would focus on captaining Amir, and helping create an environment in which the bowler could thrive.
The first ODI on Monday will be the first occasion in which the two will play together, since Amir’s return to international cricket. “He bowled well in the T20s I think,” Azhar said. “As the captain my job is to take the best out of him. Hopefully we will all be united and with Mohammad Amir, and we will allow him to bowl really well and get wickets for Pakistan.”
Four weeks ago, Azhar had been among two players who sought to avoid a pre-tour conditioning camp, stating: “I will not attend the camp as long as Amir is there.” He had also attempted to resign the ODI captaincy over Amir’s inclusion, before the Pakistan Cricket Board intervened. He struck a more philosophical tone in Wellington.
“Whatever my stance was, my job is to lead this side and keep harmony in the dressing room,” he said. “We are all united and keen for this challenge.
He did not want to be drawn on what has allowed his position to change since December. “We should not discuss more about it. We’ve moved on.”
In the event Azhar is the passive-aggressive type, the Basin Reserve does present him with a unique opportunity. Bowlers who have upset their captains sometimes find themselves bowling into the stiff wind that is a feature of the Wellington climate. A strong northerly breeze is forecast for the day.
“We already discussed it and we’re practicing in this wind,” Azhar said. “So everyone is prepared for that.”
In addition to Amir, Azhar has a legion of left-armers in the squad. Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan and Rahat Ali are likely to play at some point in the series, and left-arm spinning allrounder Imad Wasim has also been effective with the ball since making his debut last year.
“A lot of the good bowlers that are coming in – most of them are left-armers, in Pakistan,” Azhar said. “Sometimes it’s an advantage because not every team has left-armers. They bowl at good pace as well, so we’re lucky to have them.”
With bounce and pace expected in the Basin Reserve surface, Azhar said he hoped Irfan could trouble opposition batsmen. New Zealand allrounder Grant Elliott said Irfan’s height and pace made him an “exciting” bowler to face.
“I think I made the comment that playing Irfan was like batting on a trampoline,” Elliott said. “The height that he comes from is very different. It takes a little bit of getting used to – the first couple of balls. He’s another great player for the crowd to see bowl. He’s seven foot and bowls at 140 clicks.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo