|English curator Andy Atkinson with a Pakistani groundsman at the Gaddaffi in Lahore on Monday. Pakistani authorities have tightened security at all venues where the South Africans will play against the home team, following the earlier ‘pull-out’ from the tour due to security reasons. (AFP)
Lahore: Pakistan coach Javed Miandad on Monday said he plans to exploit South African weaknesses following Australian Test captain Steve Waugh’s assertions that Proteas are “chokers”.
“We have seen their videos and have discussed their weak areas as Steve Waugh put it that they (South Africans) are chokers in crunch matches,” Miandad said on the eve of South African team’s arrival here to play five one-day Internationals and two Tests.
“We would try to capitalise on it,” Miandad told reporters.
Waugh tagged the Proteas as “chokers” when they toured Down Under in 1997-98 and then Australia beat them in the last league game and tied the semi-final in the 1999 World Cup in England where South Africa had entered as favourites.
The South Africans under Greame Smith flopped in the final of the NatWest challenge in England, bundled out for a mere 108 and then lost the Oval Test against England led by Michael Vaughan after scoring over 400 runs to finish the Test series 2-2.
The tour had hit an early snag after South African cricket officials cancelled it over security fears, a day after a bomb blast in Karachi on September 19.
“We welcome them with open arms and it’s a big learning opportunity for our young team,” said Miandad. He believed Pakistan’s strength lies in bowling with express pacer Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami and leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed and off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq.
“Bowling is our strength but we have to put enough runs on the board so that we could dictate terms,” he said. Pakistan overcame a chaotic start to the series after captain Rashid Latif resigned from captaincy citing personal reasons and Inzamam-ul Haq replaced him.
The five-match one-day series gets underway with a day-night match in Lahore on October 3.
PCB chief executive Rameez Raja said on Monday that he hopes the tour will ease concerns about security in Pakistan.
“President Pervez Musharraf has made it clear that it’s a high-profile series and a chance for us to clear the misconception about Pakistan,” Raja said.
“Elite police forces will be deployed for the security of the South Africans,” he said. “We will be providing them security, normally reserved for the heads of state, but at the same time, we will ensure that fans — looking forward to the series — can enjoy the matches without any hassles”.
Raja said the Pakistan board would raise the issue of venues at next month’s International Cricket Council’s executive board meeting in the West Indies.
“The only point which I want to clear is that when we have no objection on playing at any venue abroad, the visiting teams should also have no objection on playing at a certain venue in Pakistan,” Raja said. “When the government of Pakistan gives security assurance, they should have no objection.”
Raja also complimented the Indian and Sri Lankan cricket boards for backing Pakistan’s stance on hosting the series.
“The Asian bloc has supported us throughout the last ten days,” he said. “Even (Thilanga) Sumpathipala (president of Sri Lanka Cricket) talked to the UCB officials in South Africa and persuaded them to tour Pakistan,” Raja added.
Meanwhile, English curator Andy Atkinson said in Lahore Monday that his effort in preparing pitches for pace and bounce did not target the upcoming South African series. “I have worked in South Africa for eight years… but there are no specific targets of making spin tracks to support the home team,” Atkinson said.
The 48-year-old pitch expert worked in South Africa from 1993 to 2001 after Pakistan were bowled for 43 in a one-day game at Newlands, Cape Town on a pitch criticised for its ugly behaviour.
The PCB sought Atkinson’s help after criticism by former captain Rashid Latif, incumbent coach Javed Miandad and PCB chairman Tauqir Zia.
“I came here two years ago, the soil has no problem, but maybe the way the pitches are made here is a problem,” said Atkinson, an adviser on pitches for ICC. “The whole idea is to make consistent pitches in Pakistan.”
After his tour of Pakistan, Atkinson will fly to Bangladesh to supervise pitch work for the ICC Junior World Cup, to be held in January-February.