RAWALPINDI            -          Test captain Azhar Ali has praised the Sri Lankan cricket team for touring Pakistan and hope that his side will make a good comeback against the visitors.

During the media briefing at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on Tuesday, Azhar said: “A gap of a decade is more than enough for our players, spectators and others, who always want Pakistan to host international cricket. We are excited for the series and hopeful that cricket fever will once again grip the entire country. South Africa and Australia tours were very tough for us, as we badly lost the five Test. Now it is very important for us to bounce back and return to winning ways. This time things are different and we will try to overcome past mistakes.”

Azhar added: “A skipper’s role is to lead from the front and I fully realise the responsibility. In the previous games, I took good starts, but could not convert them into big totals. I agree that when a captain performs, his players automatically respond in better way. I am hopeful the things will be back to normal, as I am trying hard to perform better. Whoever becomes captain of the national team, he should be mentally prepared to handle all kinds of pressure.  If a captain do not handle pressure, then who will handle it? I will once again reconsider my role, as how I will help my team and utilise senior players. It is my utmost priority to help the national team in winning matches. As I and head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah ul Haq had played together, he knows my strengths and weaknesses. We both are fervently working on grey areas to make things better.”

When asked that whether he has any say in team selection and how he rates the visiting team, who had performed well in the T20Is, Azhar replied: “I and management officials had a detailed meeting before the team selection to discuss about every player. I do stress for inclusion of any particular player according to the situation. Sri Lankans are always capable of upsetting any given opponent, thus we will take them seriously and play our best.”

Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne said: “I am excited to play in Pakistan, as this is my first tour here. We have experience of playing against Pakistan in UAE and Sri Lanka, which gives us confidence and motivation to play this series. As most of our squad members are playing for the first time in Pakistan, it will be difficult to settle down in short time. We will try to stick with the basics and utilise the conditions accordingly under the guidance of Mickey Arthur, who had coached Pakistan. White ball cricket is different game, so we will try to play day-by-day and see how it goes.

It will be a tough competition, as we have experienced players and Pakistan players have advantage of home conditions. It is not guaranteed that I will make good scores, but it is sure that the series will be amazing. We are getting huge support here and Pakistani fans are saying that we have won millions of hearts. It is great feeling and hopefully we will play in future too.”