Skipper Azhar Ali hopes Pakistan will strengthen their credentials -- both as a team and as hosts -- when they face a depleted Bangladesh side in the first Test in Rawalpindi starting today.
The match will further Pakistan’s efforts to host Test cricket, which returned to the country just two months ago after a 10-year gap with a series against Sri Lanka.
International cricket was suspended in Pakistan after a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009, forcing them to play home fixtures in the United Arab Emirates.
“Credit to the two boards for making this series possible,” Azhar told reporters. “Hosting matches in Pakistan will send a strong message that we are a safe country,” said Azhar.
Azhar Ali said that the team “is not taking [Bangladesh] lightly”. “Bangladesh can be a very competitive side, can surprise you, so we are not taking them lightly. They have match winners in their team,” he said during a press conference yesterday.
Azhar went on to say that he feels the side “has the opportunity” to win Test matches on the home ground. “We will try our best,” he added.
Speaking of the inclusion of fast bowlers in the composition, the Pakistan Test captain said that home matches “are played according to your strength. At the moment we feel that our fast bowling is a threat for our opposition.”
Speaking about the difference in the Bangladesh Test squad when compared to the 2015 side, Azhar said: “Obviously they are missing a couple of their key players, but as I said earlier, as a home advantage, we can have an upper hand [...] but nothing is won off the field. We have to do it on the field.”
Bangladesh will be without Shakib Al Hasan, who is banned for one year in a spot-fixing case, and Mushfiqur Rahim, who opted not to tour Pakistan over security fears.
Pakistan are currently fourth in the championship, which features the top nine Test nations and is currently led by world number one India (360 points) followed by Australia (296) and England (146).