Wellington: Pakistan’s coaches put the team through an all-round workout Sunday afternoon, along with some deep thinking in a brace of meetings here today as well as yesterday.
The green shirts were outplayed by the Blackcaps in the last two T20Is but the think tank is adamant that those defeats will have no bearing on the three-match one-day series, which commences here with a day game Monday (January 25).
Given its history, the green shirts could not have asked for a better venue to kick off the ODI series. Though the Basin Reserve has not hosted a 50-over international in the last ten years, Pakistan’s recent Test outings have all produced positive results.
Of the eight Tests, Pakistan has played here three were won while five were drawn affairs. Of the ODIs, Pakistan has romped home in three out of four, with the solitary defeat dating as far back as 1989 – which means Pakistan’s only loss here at Basin Reserve happened 26 years back.
Having a special place in New Zealand’s cricketing folklore – the only sporting venue in the country that has been placed on the National Heritage list, the venue in itself has quite a fascinating story.
One of the few cricket grounds in the world where even a passerby can watch the on-field action, it is as classical as it gets. If Wellington’s Westpac Stadium represents the equivalent of Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, the Basin Reserve is its Bagh-e-Jinnah. It is also the venue where Sir Richard Hadlee took his 300th Test wicket and where, if everything goes according to plan, next month Brendon McCullum will play his 100th Test against arch rivals from across the Tasman Sea.
Since its moving over to Wellington from Hamilton on January 18, Basin Reserve has been Team Pakistan training base. There are six changes in the squad from the T20I series, with ODI captain Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali and Zafar Gohar replacing the T20Is skipper Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Umar Akmal, Iftikhar Ahmed, Amir Yamin and Saad Nasim.
The left-arm duo of Irfan and Rahat played a vital role in Pakistan’s wins in the World Cup matches played at these shores last year and if Pakistan decides to go with a four-pronged pace attack against New Zealand both of them are likely to be part of it along with Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz – reflecting absolute predominance of left-handers in Pakistan’s pace attack.
Almost the same combination Pakistan had in the latter part of the World Cup 2015, but with Amir now taking Sohail Khan’s slot while all-rounder Imad Wasim has stepped in to fill up Shahid Afridi place.
New Zealanders have been reckoned as an invincible force at home in the recent past. Pakistan’s toughest task would be to cope with the local conditions, which have been tilted towards the home team.
What they would need to remember is that New Zealand has lost just three out of their last 22 ODIs at home, while remaining unbeaten in New Zealand throughout the ICC World Cup 2015. The Black Caps supremacy then was so pronounced that the only game the eventual world champions Australia lost through that event was in Auckland, which vindicates the notion that of late visiting teams to this country haven’t enjoyed much success here.