KARACHI: Skipper Misbah-ul Haq and head coach Waqar Younis yesterday said they were aiming for Pakistan to claim the top Test spot as they left for a Test and one-day series against Sri Lanka.
Pakistan, currently third in the Test rankings, briefly attained world number two in 2006 but have never been number one.
Misbah said Pakistan could take the top spot if they won in Sri Lanka and against Australia in October.
“We have a very good chance and it’s a big motivation for us to become top Test team,” Misbah told reporters as the team departed for Colombo.
Pakistan open the tour with the first of two Tests in Galle starting from August 6. They also play three one-day matches.
“We will do our best to grab this as we have a very good opportunity to reach the top,” said Misbah.
Misbah said playing Tests after a gap of more than six months since their last series in January had mixed effects.
“I think everything has its advantages and disadvantages and playing a Test after a gap too has its good and bad effects,” he said.
“We got a gap so we worked on our fitness and worked on some tactical issues but the disadvantage is that we need time to return to the Test format but we have the first Test at Galle in our focus and will have to be up to the mark,” said Misbah.
Misbah predicted a close series with Sri Lanka, who last month lost to South Africa 1-0 in a two-Test series.
“Both teams know each other well,” said Misbah of Sri Lanka, who Pakistan have played in five series in as many years.
“I think both the teams have good combinations and it will be a close Test series,” said Misbah.
Waqar agreed Pakistan’s next two series are as important as next year’s World Cup.
“The main target is the World Cup but we have very important series in Sri Lanka and then two more against Australia and New Zealand so we have to focus on all these events and try our best to win them,” said Waqar, appointed for two years in May.
Waqar said Pakistan can take inspiration from their last Test win over Sri Lanka in Sharjah when they chased 302 on the last day.
“That win in Sharjah will be a great motivation because we were really positive in that chase,” said Waqar.
“We should continue that and like South Africa, who are world’s best team, do our best.”
Waqar said the induction of former Zimbabwe opener Grant Flower as batting coach would help the team.
“He has a very good reputation as a very positive and gritty man so his induction will surely help the team,” said Waqar.
Meanwhile, Mishab said Pakistan will do whatever it takes to win the two-Test series in Sri Lanka even if it means spoiling senior batsman Mahela Jayawardene’s farewell party.
Former Sri Lanka captain Jayawardene, who has scored 11,671 runs in 147 Tests averaging over 50, announced last month he would retire from Test cricket after the home series against Pakistan starting at Galle on Wednesday.
“If we are to win the series in Sri Lanka, we have to ensure that their top batsmen, particularly Jayawardene, is not allowed to get many runs,” Misbah told a news conference on the eve of the team’s departure for Sri Lanka.
“I have a lot of respect for what he has achieved but we are going to Sri Lanka to win the two-test series and we know how important it is for us to not allow their senior players to score.”
Jayawardene, 37, has also scored 11,681 runs in 420 one-dayers and with stalwart Kumar Sangakkara is the mainstay of the Sri Lankan batting. Misbah predicted a tough series against the Sri Lankans who have a strong home record.
“It is going to be a tough series because Sri Lanka have been playing lot of test and other cricket. But we have prepared hard and I have confidence in our bowlers,” said Misbah.
“Our spinners have traditionally done well in Sri Lanka but we are banking on our pace bowlers as well.”
Misbah, who turned 40 in May and has a modest strike rate in one-dayers, was coy about his chances of leading Pakistan in next year’s 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“I just focus on the match at the moment because that is important. No one knows what will happen after one day so why think about the World Cup.