Dubai: Steve Rixon, Australia’s acting head coach, has expressed his surprise at the omission of veteran player Younus Khan and strike bowler Umar Gul from the Pakistan squad for the series against his country, which starts on August 28.
Responding to a query from Gulf News as to whether the absence of Pakistan’s two top performers will make it easy for his team, Rixon said: “We have to first take a look at the wicket to see whether it is a massive advantage or not.
“Both players are outstanding cricketers and I was a little surprised, to be honest, to see them both missing. But it gives opportunity for others to get there,” the coach said.
“Pakistan have got a lot of experience in their side like Shoaib Malek, the likes of Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal, who has come back into the side.
“With players like Mohammad Hafeez too in the side, they are a bunch who have played well over 100-odd matches for their county,” he added.
“So I think they have a nice balance with some good kids coming out of Pakistan. They will be very competitive and be very desperate for a win after two disappointing series.”
Rixon is equally hopeful that his own players will rise to the challenge in the UAE.
“The end result is how you play out in the middle when you get there. We have nothing to lose with that attitude, which I think is an outstanding way to play. We have been the number one in this game for a long time, and we want to make sure we get back to No 1,” said Rixon, who played in 13 Tests and six one-dayers for Australia as a dependable wicketkeeper.
“So we will make every effort to win it. We have to do what we do well and if we do that, I think we can achieve it.”
He insisted he is not overly concerned about the UAE’s hot weather conditions affecting his players. “We have just come out of a camp in Darwin. The weather there was very warm up there, but nothing to compare to over here, I presume,” Rixon said.
“We are well aware of how hot it is going to be and we are also well aware that our body clocks will need to change, given that matches commencing from 6pm will end only by 1.45am. There are a lot of professional people around us and we have a very good support staff to help us out.”
Rixon says gone are the days when cricketers could not adapt to different conditions.
“A lot of players in the modern day games play a lot in the sub-continent. With the IPL and other forms of cricket being played in the sub-continent, especially in places like Chennai where it is very warm, players today can get acclimatised to conditions unlike they used to be able to ten or 15 years ago.”
Australia take on Afghanistan in their first match of the tour on Saturday, August 25 and Rixon admitted that their opponents are an unknown quantity.
“No one has seen them in action for a while so you have to really be looking at your own backyard as the starting point and how we can play best in these conditions regardless of the opposition,” said the Australian.
“Afghanistan have come in as a minor contender, but they are now competing at the top and at their best level. So we have got to come in with every answer and respect for the opposition,” he added.
“We also like to think that we are going with the upper hand to be able to beat them in these sorts of conditions with the sort of side we have with us.
“We will like to play to our best and I like the idea that the minor nations are now getting an opportunity to come in and play against the bigger boys. That is great for cricket and the culture of the game.”