Sarfraz Ahmed explains why Pakistan have fared better than India in England
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has attributed his team's recently strong performances in England to extensive pre-match preparations. Making no bones about the difficulty in adapting to English conditions, he connected India's struggles thus far in the ongoing five-match series to their reluctance in utilising warm-up fixtures to get into the groove.
Sarfraz felt, "I have toured England twice and both times Pakistan team performed well. According to me, whichever Asian team travels to England tend to struggle. India is no different as the conditions there are really tough."
Under Misbah-ul-Haq's captaincy, Pakistan toured England for a four-match Test series in the summer of 2016. Contrary to public expectations, they registered comprehensive victories at Lord's and The Oval to draw the series 2-2. Sarfraz was part of the well-oiled squad which prepared for the gruelling tour through a rigorous boot camp.
Ahead of the first Test, Misbah's Pakistan played two warm-up matches before finding time to participate in another one after the second Test. Those practice games allowed their batsmen to recapture form and make merry of the relatively warmer conditions on offer.
Sarfraz reasoned, "I guess Pakistan's preparations were good. If we are talking about my first tour there (in 2016), we had reached England 25 days before the start of the series. We had a 10-day camp and then played two practice games - which helped us immensely."
Pakistan began their 2018 tour with two four-day warm-up matches. After defeating Ireland by five wickets in the one-off Test, they took part in a two-day practice game against Leicestershire.
Despite the lack of experience at his disposal, skipper Sarfraz managed to lead his troops to a rousing victory at Lord's. Although they were trounced by an innings margin in the second Test at Leeds, the visitors had emerged from the series with a creditable 1-1 draw.
Sarfraz explained, "As for the last tour (in 2018), Pakistan played almost three practice matches and then faced England. As a player and a captain, I think our preparation was better and (hence) we got better results (than India)."
In sharp contrast to their neighbours, India have entered eagerly anticipated Test series with minimal preparation. The 2014 tour saw them squander a 1-0 lead due to lack of warm-up matches in between the Tests. England clinched the series 3-1.
A bleaker tale is playing out in 2018 as the Virat Kohli-led Indian team have slipped to two successive losses against Joe Root's England side. After suffering an agonising 31-run defeat at Edgbaston, the visitors were blown away by an innings margin under murky conditions at Lord's.
The disastrous performance of the Indian batsmen in the second Test stems from their refusal to play sufficient warm-up matches ahead of the series. In fact, the team management even reduced their sole practice fixture against Essex to three days instead of the original scheduled four.
With the scoreline reading an ominous 0-2, India find themselves in a must-win situation as the third Test begins on Saturday at Trent Bridge.