Misbah-ul-Haq, who had a pretty successful stint as skipper of the Pakistan team has been handed over the charge of the team in what is usually a very controversial role- Pakistan's head coach. He replaces Mickey Arthur who had a lot of mixed results with the South African at the helm.
The ODI series against Sri Lanka is also a fresh start for Pakistan in another regard. For the first time since the dastardly terrorist attack on Sri Lankan players in 2009, a full-fledged limited-overs tour is being played in Pakistan. The visitors too must be appreciated for agreeing to be a part of this landmark series as after getting all the required security measures, they agreed to play three ODIs and three T20Is.
However, most of Sri Lanka's prominent players have opted out due to safety concerns. As many as ten front line players, including the likes of Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, and Suranga Lakmal won't be a part of this series.
On paper, it almost looks a bit easier for the hosts. Sri Lanka's captain for the three match ODI series Lahiru Thirimanne probably would not even have made it to the playing XI in normal circumstances considering his current run of poor form.
Although, there are some talented players in the squad like Avishka Fernando, Oshana Fernando, and Dasun Shanaka who can cause some worries for the hosts. But it certainly is a weakened batting unit. The bowling line-up that features the likes of Lahiru Kumara, Isuru Udana, and Wahindu Hasaranga, can pose some threats.
The focus will be on the hosts starting off on a positive note. Their players would be very nervous considering the fact that not many of them have represented their country playing in front of packed crowds in Karachi or Lahore. The added pressure will need to be addressed by the coach and captain.
Also, in a recent development, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz decided to end their red ball career just before the ICC World Test Championship started, in order to focus on their white ball game. Babar Azam has been appointed the team's new vice-captain.
Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali miss out due to injuries, but otherwise the squad led by Sarfaraz Ahmed that played in the World Cup recently pretty much is intact. Fakhar Zaman, Imam Ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Harris Sohail cap off a pretty formidable batting unit.
Keeping all the above mentioned factors in mind, Pakistan start as favorites to win the first match. While Sri Lanka will have to regroup yet again, the hosts seem to have all the bases covered and would want to put on a grand show for the people who would throng the National Stadium in Karachi.
Also see – World Test Championship Schedule