England’s red-ball head coach Brendon McCullum has made it very clear that his team will continue to play an aggressive brand of cricket ahead of the three-match Test series in Pakistan, starting on Thursday (December 1) in Rawalpindi. Having won six of their last seven Tests at home, England have been playing attacking cricket under McCullum and skipper Ben Stokes and the former New Zealand wicketkeeper-batter has ensured that his team will continue to push for results.
"To win away from home is the greatest accomplishment you can achieve as a Test player and as a Test side. We understand the size of the challenge in front of us. But that's great - that's why you want to play the game. You don't want easy challenges, you want to take on the best in their own conditions and you want to try and test where you're at as a side. I'm really excited. I don't know if we're going to win the series. I can almost guarantee when the skipper comes in here in 48 hours time he'll say there'll be no draws in the series," McCullum was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
"We'll certainly be pushing for results because we see it as our obligation to try and ensure that people walk away entertained. And if we get beat, Pakistan, we know, will have played well. I expect us to play well and if we get outplayed, that's okay too. Looking forward to the opportunity, looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to the hospitality. And hopefully in a few weeks time everyone will say this has been an amazing series."
England will be playing a Test series in Pakistan after 17 years and it’s being reported that all three venues - Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi - are sold out. "The boys have already said they're pretty excited about playing in front of a full house here, it's going to be a good atmosphere, so they're really excited. That's what we want from red-ball cricket all around the world, stadiums packed out and fans getting behind their local team.
"To have that on the road is the greatest compliment... we're lucky that the crowd here is sold out and that's kind of what we want. The skipper wants them to be rockstars and to be a rockstar you've got to play in front of the big houses. We've got that opportunity to do that."
Talking about the Rawalpindi surface, McCullum said: "It looks good but I'd expect it to change over the next couple of days, see how things scrub up. I think one of the things we've talked about is adapt to whatever we're given and not be too stuck in our preconceived thoughts. Just play what's in front of us and be prepared to adapt accordingly."
Australia and Pakistan did play a Test in Rawalpindi earlier this year and only 14 wickets fell over the course of five days. The batter scored close to three runs per over and McCullum said his team will make all the required adjustments depending on how the surface behaves.
"We'll find out I suppose. One of the things we try and do is respect the conditions but at the same time if we are given the opportunity to try and play aggressive and attacking cricket, we'll try and take that option. It's authentic to the line-up that we have. The guys who are in our squad, that's how they play their cricket and that's what gives them the most amount of freedom and the best opportunity to perform at the highest level.
"Look, we know it may not necessarily be as prominent, the aggressive cricket that we've seen in the past, but there will be opportunities to try and play positive. And when that does arise, I expect our guys to try and take that on."
Pakistan will be without their ace paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi, who has been ruled out for months due to a knee injury. However, McCullum knows Pakistan have other quality fast bowlers in their arsenal who can wreak havoc on any given day. “That's obviously a big loss. I know him pretty well, I played many years in the PSL with Shaheen as well. He's a wonderful bowler and he's turned into a fine leader for Pakistani cricket.
“He's a big loss, no doubt. But one thing when you play against Pakistan, you look at their team sheet and you see talent, and you see some that might not be developed talent but it's talent. You need to respect that and you need to find a way to be able to be well-researched and well-planned about what's going to come at you, but also try and find out a way to put that talent under pressure and see how it responds.
"It's a very good Pakistan squad, it's well-rounded, it's got some experience and some youth, with both batting and bowling, and they'll be a tough challenge. We know we'll have to play well if we're going to be successful."
McCullum is happy that Pakistan have started hosting more and more international cricket and feels it’s their “obligation” to play an entertaining brand of cricket. “This is obviously a great place to tour and it's been starved of international cricket for a long period of time. We understand how passionate people are here in Pakistan about this form of cricket and we understand the obligation that we have as an England side and we are looking forward to coming over here and playing an entertaining style of cricket which hopefully ends up in results, whether that's in our favour or in Pakistan's favour.
"Hopefully, everyone that does dial into this series, not just in Pakistan but around the world, sees that international cricket is back in Pakistan and we've got a product that's worth watching."