SYDNEY: Test skipper Pat Cummins said his team were “comfortable” with security arrangements and excited by what lies ahead, as Australia prepare to jet into Pakistan on their first tour since 1998.
They are due to leave over the weekend ahead of the first of three Tests in Rawalpindi on March 4 — giving them less than a week to acclimatise and without any warm-up matches.
It will be followed by Tests in Karachi and Lahore before three ODIs and a single T20, all in Rawalpindi.
“We’ve got to a place where everyone hopping on the plane is comfortable with where it’s all sitting. It’s been a really thorough body of work that the security and the logistics teams have worked through,” Cummins said.
“And obviously the added layer of bio-security in these times as well. So we’re feeling really good and once we get over there, we’re going to be able to just concentrate on the cricket.
“More than anything it’s a really special tour,” he added. “We’re going to fly over there and experience something for the first time. We’re really excited, everyone is in a good place.”
Cricket-mad Pakistan endured a long spell without a visit from an international team following an attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan side in Lahore in 2009.
They were forced to play their home international matches abroad — mostly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — until 2015 when normal service tentatively resumed.
But concerns surfaced again last year when New Zealand quit their first tour to the country in 18 years shortly before the opening match was due to start following a security alert.
Australia head into the series on the back of a 4-0 Ashes thumping of England over the home summer, with the starting XI for Rawalpindi expected to be much the same.
Usman Khawaja — who was born in Pakistan — is set to partner David Warner at the top of the order ahead of Marcus Harris, who was dropped during the Ashes.
Cummins confirmed Steve Smith had recovered from a concussion during their recent T20 series against Sri Lanka and will retain his place.
Otherwise, the side is set to mirror the one that faced England in the fifth Test last month — with Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc providing pace and Nathan Lyon spin.
However, interim coach Andrew McDonald — in charge after Justin Langer quit after the Ashes — admitted there had been “educated guesses” of how the pitches would play with two extra spinners in Mitchell Swepson and Ashton Agar also in the squad.
“So we’re covering all bases there, from turning wickets to potentially wickets with grass on (them),” he said.
“But we feel the squad’s balanced and there’s enough options for whatever the case may be when we land on the ground.”
The squad has spent the past few days at the Melbourne Cricket Ground preparing, with a spin net set up and the pacemen practising reverse swing, both of which will likely be a factor on the sub-continent.
“We don’t really know what to expect over there, sub-continent Test matches can be played slowly or quickly,” said Cummins.
“For a lot of this group, we haven’t played a lot of cricket overseas but if we want to be number one in the world we have got to have a really good showing on these sub-continent tours.”
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (captain), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner.
Australia ODI and T20 squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa.