Misbah admits Proteas pose big challenge
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq Friday admitted his team's series next month against top-ranked South Africa poses the biggest challenge of his three-year tenure.
Pakistan play three tests, the first starting in Johannesburg on February 1, followed by two Twenty20 internationals and five one-day matches.
Since taking over as captain after the spot-fixing controversy in England in 2010, Misbah has led Pakistan admirably, squaring test series against South Africa (2010) and the West Indies before beating Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka (all in 2011) and routing then world-number-one England 3-0 in January last year.
He has lost only one test series, in Sri Lanka last year.
But Misbah said playing a test series in South Africa will be a sterner challenge.
"A test series in South Africa will be one of the biggest challenges of my captaincy tenure but I am confident that if Pakistan plays to its potential then we can pose a serious challenge to South Africa," Misbah told reporters.
Misbah said Pakistan, ranked fourth in test cricket, face tough conditions in South Africa where wickets are greener and bouncier than back home.
"The conditions in South Africa will be different because we have mostly played our cricket in Asia and our home series in United Arab Emirates, so we have to cope with that also" said Misbah.
With international cricket suspended in Pakistan since a terror attack targeted the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, Misbah has not led Pakistan in any home test matches.
He said: "The last few years have been a big challenge for Pakistan cricket and the players have come through well most of the time.
"But this is a tour where we have to play our best cricket and I am confident that players will do that."
Pakistan's much-vaunted bowling attack would be key to their success, he added.
"We have a balanced bowling attack and until now our spinners have come through for us," said Misbah of spin duo Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman who shared 43 wickets between them against England last year.
"I think it is the turn of the pace bowlers to deliver. I am confident that players like Umar Gul and Junaid Khan will be our strike bowlers and we have a good spin backup in Saeed Ajmal," he said.
Besides Gul and Khan, Pakistan have selected lanky paceman Mohammad Irfan and rookie uncapped fast bowler Ehsan Adil for the tour.
Misbah said Pakistan needed to play at its best to compete against South Africa.
"South Africa is world's best team and have one of the best pace attacks in the world so we have to be at our best. If we can post decent totals in the tests I know our bowlers will deliver," said Misbah.
Pakistan's 16-man squad leave from Lahore on Sunday morning.