AFP/London, United Kingdom
A Turkish TV blockbuster is being used as an unlikely motivator for the Pakistan team ahead of their must-win third Test clash against England, captain Azhar Ali said yesterday.
The 35-year-old added they were in a good state of mind despite the crushing disappointment of losing the first Test when they were in a strong position to win it.
The second Test was a virtual washout — at the same Ageas Bowl venue where the third Test gets underway today — due to bad light and rain.
TV series Ertugrul, which has run for five seasons (2014-19) and is a big hit in Pakistan, has proved a winner for raising morale, said Azhar.
The series, a mix of historical fiction and adventure, is based around the life of Ertugrul, the father of Osman I, who was the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
Available to stream in England, it’s been a crucial diversion for a squad confined to bio-secure sites for the duration of their stay.
“Yes I think there is no player who is not watching Ertugrul,” Azhar said in his eve of match press conference conducted in Urdu.
“It’s tough to lift the side after losing a winning match but we have done well to lift ourselves and will do our best to level the series by winning this Test.”
Later in the English section of the press conference, Azhar said what made it easier to recover from the first Test disappointment was the harmony in the dressing room.
“I’m lucky to have such a nice bunch of guys who are putting everything in for Pakistan,” said Azhar. “They have gelled really nicely, which makes the job very easy for me, so I focus on all the strategies.
“I’m enjoying it. Hopefully we can win this Test and move forward from there.”
Azhar addressed his own lack of form with the bat — he was out for a duck and 18 in the first Test.
“I was feeling really confident about myself in the two hours or so I spent at the crease in my previous innings (20) and my balance was good as well,” he said.
“It is my responsibility to make sure that I score runs.”
Azhar also backed young pace bowling duo Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi to be a more potent attacking threat at the Ageas Bowl.
Naseem has two wickets at 49.50 with Shaheen’s three coming at 45.66.
“They are exciting characters but you can’t buy experience without playing. We have to back them,” he said.
“We are lucky enough to have these exciting fast bowlers, although they are young. Naseem is nearly 18 and Shaheen is just 20.
“They are bowling really well, putting the opposition under pressure and we are backing them because you can’t just sit outside and gain experience, you have to play.”
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