Former England captain Alec Stewart thinks that Pakistan will have an advantage over England as the UAE pitches will favour them when both sides take on each other in the four-Test series starting from October 13.
“It will be tough. Pakistan have a good record there,” said Alec Stewart, while talking to PakPassion.
“England went there a few years ago and got beaten three nil. I would expect the pitches to be full of spin and I don’t expect the pitches to have any help for the pace bowlers. So Pakistan will start as favourites and they are a good side. Although it can never be said with confidence about what Pakistan team will turn up. However, if the proper Pakistan team shows up then they will be a handful for England who are an emerging side and one that is getting better and better.
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“They are a young and talented side but it will be hard work for them. I can see that there will be a lot of spin and we will need to see who can deal with spin better, England or Pakistan? It will be a good series and it would have been more interesting if Mohammad Amir had been selected. If he had been selected and started to bowl anything like how he had bowled when he emerged onto the international scene then he could have surely enhanced the quality of the Pakistan eleven.”
Stewart reminisced his days of visiting Pakistan to play cricket and thinks it’s a shame that the country is being deprived of the international matches.
“It is always interesting to visit new places but it is a real shame that no cricket is happening in Pakistan due to reasons which are well documented. It’s a shame because Pakistanis are so passionate about the game,” said the 52-year-old.
“Whether you are at the cricket ground, at the hotel, a restaurant or walking down the street the people want to take their pictures with you and talk cricket with you. The game of cricket is almost like a second religion for them and that’s why I have a real sympathy towards the Pakistani public that they are not seeing first hand international cricket at home because that’s what they and everyone else wants.
“As for my experience of visiting Pakistan, it was always interesting whether it was the journey from the airport to the hotel or trying to get to the ground on time and those types of things that can happen in the sub-continent. At times you almost wanted to get angry as it hadn’t worked out quite like how you wanted it to be but then you thought, why? This is how it is so live as you are in Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka and that’s how it needs to be. I really enjoyed my time there and the thing that I really recall is the passion that the Pakistani public have for cricket. Not just for their own cricketers but for world cricket and visiting teams as well.”
Stewart also talked about Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, the latter being his teammate at Surrey.
“He [Wasim] was obviously a fine bowler. I always say that to me Malcolm Marshall and Wasim Akram were the best two quick bowlers that I have ever faced in my career. Wasim Akram bowled some rapid deliveries and some rapid spells. One that I recall well is one of his quickest ‘speed of light’ spells in 1992 at Old Trafford to me and Graham Gooch,” remembered Stwart.
“What was special about Wasim was that whether it was the new ball or an old ball, he was at you all the time. With Wasim he could bowl left arm over the wicket or suddenly jump out from behind the umpire when bowling round the wicket, he was just a wonderful cricketer and an exciting player to watch as a spectator and of course a great bloke as well.
“He [Waqar] was definitely the fastest bowler through the air that I played against. He could gain pace off the pitch too but still very fast through the air. The first time I saw him was during the Nehru Cup in 1989 and then later he came to Surrey. He had this massive run-up, almost sprinted in from the boundary edge like Usain Bolt in a 100m race and then unleashed absolute thunderbolts. Just like Wasim, his skill levels were absolutely unbelievable.
People talk about how they (Wasim and Waqar) got the ball to reverse swing and all that but I always say forget about that, give the same ball to a lesser cricketer and you won’t get the same result. They mastered the art of reverse swing, they were accurate and quick and they were at you every ball you faced from them. I would much rather Waqar be playing alongside me at Surrey than facing him in an England versus Pakistan game. But that’s why you play international cricket, especially Test cricket to test your skills against others from around the world. Waqar is a great man, a great servant of Surrey and a greater servant of Pakistan cricket. He is another who is a great bloke and someone I call a cricketing friend.”
Moreover, Stewart admitted that final defeat to Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup still hurt as they were the best side right up to that last match.
“Right up until that final, we were the best side. If it hadn’t been for the rain in Adelaide Pakistan would have gone out of the World Cup. As the competition went on, Pakistan got better and better and played us in the final. Simple as that. So, does it still hurt? Of course it does but you can’t do anything about it. Imran Khan led the team to the final and we just tailed off towards the end. Now, whether it was due to age or just simply wear and tear, the fact is that they had the better of us,” explained Stewart.