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There is a lot of excitement and hunger among us to play Cricket again: Azhar Ali

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Azhar Ali, captain of the Pakistan Test team which is set to take on England in a month’s time, has revealed that he and his team mates made a pact among themselves during the lockdown, which was to keep their fitness intact, so that the moment cricket could resume they would all be ready.

20 members of the Pakistan squad are set to leave for England today. In a pre departure video conference from Lahore, Ali said, “We are happy now. The wait is over and cricket is resuming. There is a lot of excitement and hunger to play cricket. For long, we were not able to play the cricket, a game we love the most and this was the toughest time. We’ve been through a lot of challenges in last few months being at home. We all have been in touch with each other on WhatsApp group and made a pact that we have to keep our fitness intact. There were several who made gyms at home, few had found an isolated place to keep it going and made sure that we have keep our physical fitness. Because we know if we are in good shape, we can work on our skills at any stage later to regain our momentum. Now, we have a month in England for preparation and hopefully this is a sufficient time to focus on skills and get back in our groove.”

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Initially, the PCB planned to send the entire squad of 29 players to the UK, but 10 of them tested positive for COVID-19 in the first round of tests. After the second round, 6 out of the 10 players returned negative results, according to PCB chief Wasim Khan. Therefore, it was decided that the remaining squad of 20 people will leave for England and the rest of them will depart as soon as they return two negative tests. Ali said, “We weren’t worried assuming we don’t have any symptoms.In fact, we never really imagined that few can still get positive result without even having any sign. So there and then we all started to get worried because we had spent tough times waiting for cricket and once it is about to start, this sudden thing (ten players testing positive) happened. But then if anything like this meant to happen, you cannot control it. We knew about the testing process and we had to go though at least two tests before going to England so we were mentally prepared. But obviously this news about positive gave us a scare.”

On whether or not the testing and retesting shifted the squad’s focus from Cricket, Ali said, “Now this is a part and parcel of the game and we will get used to of it. There were first couple of tests and once you are in a bio-secure environment you feel totally different. We were at home and came here (the hotel from where Ali attended this conference) and we started to feel more secure. There are still challenges but cricket has to move forward this way for some time. It’s a tough time and we will try to entertain all the people out there waiting for cricket. So the boys are confident and looking forward for the tour which hopefully will go smoothly.”

Ali went on to talk about the experience of playing in English conditions. He said, “Batting in England has always been tough but we did well in our previous outing. At home in our previous Test, our batsmen had scored a lot of centuries and confidence is still there. So we have a lot to take to England. In England once we get 300-plus runs on the board, then I am hopeful that we will do well in the Test matches.”