Yasir Shah is the name on everyone’s lips, or so it seems in the England camp.
Barely two practice sessions down the line and many a match lying ahead, those few journalists who have ventured out onto a scorching Dubai outfield, have heard expected talk about the importance of spin on UAE pitches.
In the eyes of cricket’s decision-makers, veteran Pakistani bowler Saeed Ajmal may no longer be a threat. Yet, judging by England captain Alistair Cook’s first press conference, he has learnt the lessons of 2012 well and will not be underestimating Pakistan’s new spin whiz kid. He spoke generously of Saeed Ajmal’s talent and described Yasir Shah as having “…an outstanding start to his Test career.”
The second day’s press conference was largely no different, with middle order batsman James Taylor facing a media grilling, due to his exclusion from England’s Test squad for the last three years. However his responses on how much of a danger man Yasir Shah is, were enlightening. He let slip that he had observed Yasir Shah during the last ICC World Cup. He also reminded the press that he has played in Sri Lanka recently, where he feels the pitches are similar to the UAE.
Added to all this, is former Sri Lankan supremo Mahela Jayawerdene’s presence in the camp. Having counter-attacked spin beautifully in the past, the England players appear keen to take his advice on UAE conditions as well as Pakistani bowlers. As James Taylor eloquently put it, “ Mahela has the same stature as I, thus he understands my game and that helps tremendously.”
The press contingent’s first encounters with the England camp, give the impression that Alistair Cook is keen to avoid all comparisons with the 2012 tour and his squad’s preparations have already gone full steam ahead. A large part of that preparation, appears to be centred on how to counter-attack Yasir Shah.