Mark Boucher is calling on the Proteas to make return to Pakistan a memorable one
JOHANNESBURG - Mark Boucher stressed the importance of international cricket returning to Pakistan saying the country holds a unique position in the sport.
South Africa head for Pakistan on Friday for a short tour that will include two Tests and three T20 Internationals. It is the Proteas first tour of Pakistan in 14 years. The country had not hosted international teams for a decade following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team’s bus in 2009.
“My message to the team is that cricket hasn’t been played in Pakistan for quite some time, it’s been missed in that country,” said Boucher. “There won’t be crowds, but there’ll be a lot of hype about a big country coming to play cricket. We must buy into that and put on a good show for everyone in Pakistan.”
Sri Lanka became the first team to play in Pakistan in December 2019, followed by Bangladesh. That latter series was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pakistan holds a special place for Boucher as it was his first tour with the senior national team, albeit as the back up wicket-keeper to Dave Richardson. “It was something completely different. It’s not like India or Sri Lanka, they have their own brand of cricket. I used to watch Wasim and Waqar, reversing the ball, and to get out there and face it was something very foreign to me. It is very important that we get back to playing in Pakistan.”
Safety, understandably, remains a focal point for tours to Pakistan, but Boucher said he was happy with the information Cricket SA had provided following a recce there late last year. Former Proteas opener, Stephen Cook, as a representative of the SA Cricketers Association and security consultant Rory Steyn went to Pakistan to assess the facilities and security measures, with their positive feedback finally providing CSA with the confidence to sign off on the trip.
We trust that the right decisions will get made should something happen. But they have assured us they will look after us...we are getting state security as well, which is good. It’s more for us about getting over there and playing cricket.”
Boucher and his coaching staff have attempted to source as much material about the conditions they will face in Rawalpindi and Karachi where the Tests will be played as possible. Unlike India and Sri Lanka, where spin is the primary bowling option, Pakistan will rely on their seamers, with a particular focus on reverse swing.
“They are - and this is the important word - historically flat wickets. I spoke to Mickey Arthur (Sri Lanka’s coach) and he alluded to the fact that the wickets were really good for batting.”
“It is something completely different, the areas where you score are different, the bowlers bowl straighter lines, the ball starts to reverse, which a lot of our batters have probably not seen, especially being a young group.”
The same holds true for the bowlers, with Boucher appreciative of the week they have ahead of the first Test to allow the players to prepare properly. “A lot of our bowlers have never had to deal with reverse swing. Just being in the franchise system, if we go to places where we think reverse swing will be important, we will scuff one end of the ball up to allow for that swing to happen, guys can’t control it, because it is something completely different. It will be a good lesson for our guys.”
“KG (Rabada) has bowled really well with the reverse swinging ball so he’ll be immense in passing on that knowledge to the young bowlers and our bowling coach Langers (Charl Langeveldt) was a master of it, so he’ll make some good calls with regard to getting it right.”
*Pakistan will name its squad for the Tests on Friday. There was good news, with their skipper Babar Azam, who missed the series against New Zealand with a fractured thumb, saying he was ready to play. “It was painful for me not to play against New Zealand as the team needed me badly, however, I have been practicing for two days now after completely recovering from the injury. I’ll be in action against South Africa,” he revealed.