Lahore: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq has said that the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe will mark the beginning of the tough season ahead, which will see the national cricket team taking on the likes of Sri Lanka, England and India in all three formats of the game.
Misbah said that the Zimbabwe series will be a big challenge for him as a captain personally and would also signal the start of a hectic international calendar for next six to eight months.
"The team is in the rebuilding process as we have lost some of the senior players. So, Zimbabwe tour will give the new comers an opportunity to cement their place in the team and prepare for the tough season ahead," Misbah said in a press conference.
The 37-year-old, who has been appointed to lead Pakistan in all three formats by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) after the retirement of Shahid Afridi in May, said his team would not be taking Zimbabwe lightly.
"We are taking on a new look side and it would be a big mistake on our part to underestimate Zimbabwe. We will not take them lightly at all," Misbah said.
"We need to give Zimbabwe all the respect they deserve as they are doing exceptionally well against Bangladesh in the ongoing series and have also made a strong comeback to Test cricket after six years. Zimbabwe have always been a hard side in their own country so we have to be prepared," he added.
Pakistan would leave for Zimbabwe on August 25 to play a Test, three One-dayers and two T20 Internationals on their first tour to the African nation since 2002-03.
"We are going to Zimbabwe after a long time and over the years they have got some good players, so they will be tough opponents," he insisted.
This year, Pakistan cricket has undergone radical changes with many senior players either not available for selection or not being considered for selection for different reasons.
While former One-day and T20 captain, Shahid Afridi retired in protest after being removed as captain for the Ireland series, speedster Shoaib Akhtar announced his retirement during the World Cup.
Even former captain and senior batsman Mohammad Yousuf retired from all forms of competitive cricket yesterday after being dropped from the list of centrally contracted players by the PCB.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal, meanwhile, is also out of favour since the World Cup.
Pakistan had also lost three key players in February when Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir were banned by the ICC anti-corruption tribunal in the spot-fixing scandal.
Former captain Shoaib Malik and leg-spinner Danish Kaneria are also not cleared for selection due to doubts over their integrity by the board.
Moreover, the national selectors have decided to use the Zimbabwe tour to give exposure to new and younger players, resting frontline bowlers in Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Abdul Rehman and Tanvir Ahmed, while recalling Sohail Tanvir and Sohail Khan.
They have also picked uncapped bowlers -- Aizaz Cheema and Yasir Shah -- for the tour.
Misbah noted that it was never easy for any team when they lose their senior and experienced players.
"Pakistan team is facing a situation where new and younger players have come in but it will take time for them to settle down. And it will not be easy even against Zimbabwe," he cautioned, adding added that the team would be undergoing hard training in the national camp that begins from today.