Dubai: Pakistan is hoping a strong performance in its upcoming series against South Africa will help the team put the match fixing scandal behind it and start gaining back the confidence of its beleaguered fans.
The team, which arrived in the United Arab Emirates early Sunday, will be without former captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, who have been provisionally suspended by the ICC following allegations that they accepted money to bowl deliberate no-balls during a Test against England in order to fix spot-betting markets.
South Africa’s team was due to arrive later Sunday.
Before departing for the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan coach Waqar Younis admitted the England tour had taken a toll on his players and the biggest scandal in a decade to hit cricket had done serious damage to the sport.
But he said he was confident they would bounce back against South Africa.
“Our team is pretty balanced and I am hopeful that we will win Twenty20s,” Younis said. “When it comes to limited-overs cricket, they are very fine side. It will be tough competition, I hope the boys are focused and will continue to focus.”
Pakistan will play two Twenty20 internationals, five one-day internationals and two Test matches against South Africa starting Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.
Despite Pakistan’s troubles off the pitch, the series is attracting plenty of attention in the United Arab Emirates.
The Emirates Cricket Board said no sponsors have pulled out and that ticket sales were brisk. There are hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis working in the country and the series will be broadcast as planned in South Africa and Pakistan.
South Africa’s cricket body has avoided the fixing scandal since it broke in August. And despite initial reports of players grumbling about playing Pakistan, Cricket South Africa said the series would go ahead as planned.
“The tour of Pakistan is part of the ICC Future Tours’ program, which we have to honor, unless instructed otherwise by the International Cricket Council,” CSA said in a statement on August 30 - the closest it came to commenting on the scandal engulfing the Pakistan team.
Since then, CSA has portrayed the matches against Pakistan as vital buildup for the home series against India, starting in December, and next year’s World Cup.
Since 1995, South Africa has won five of the seven Test series played against Pakistan with one draw.
South Africa has been in fine form recently, winning a Twenty20 series over Zimbabwe 2-0 and sweeping its three-match, one-day series against Zimbabwe. Those matches were played without some of its top players, including fast bowler Dale Steyn and batsman Jacques Kallis who are recovering from injuries.