Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur knows as well as anyone that New Zealand’s seam-friendly pitches are a million miles removed from India’s spin havens.
So despite the fact that New Zealand are coming off a comprehensive three-Test series defeat to India, the affable South African is reading nothing into recent results.
Pakistan have some momentum behind them, arriving in New Zealand on Saturday with a 2-1 Test series win over the West Indies in the bank. However, they lost the last Test by five wickets, a result Arthur blamed on complacency and tiredness.
“First of all, I think the New Zealand team’s very well coached,” Arthur said. “I think they’re a very good side at the moment, particularly in their own conditions. But our training and preparation and focus is pretty much on how we trained and prepared to play in England.
“I think in England we got it right and [New Zealand] conditions are going to be similar to England. They’re totally different to what we’ve just come out of in Dubai, but we were in England only three months ago and we played really well there.
“So I don’t expect anything too different from the conditions in England and the players are used to them.”
Arthur said that he regarded the Black Caps with utmost respect.
Despite genuine disappointment at New Zealand left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner’s withdrawal through injury, Arthur was obviously wary of New Zealand’s experienced attack. “The seam attack’s very good. We’re expecting a sort of trial-by-seam I guess. [But] we’ve got a very good seam attack as well.”
He said the difference could lie “in which of the top six batsmen batting units are going to perform better, because I think both teams’ strength lies in the fact that we’ve got quality seam and swing bowlers”.
Arthur said he wasn’t surprised by New Zealand’s heavy defeat at the hands of India. “I coached Australia in India and we lost 4-0…those conditions are so tough for a team that comes from outside of the sub-continent.
“All it does is fire up New Zealand to come back and be better in their own conditions, which they certainly will be.”
Arthur is confident that Pakistan will be carrying real momentum into the series.
“We’re a very good cricket team. We’ve got to play well and all our players need to be performing at their best…not a lot of standout individuals, but a team that works very well together.”
And he said that if you’re looking for someone to bring the wow factor to the series, keep a close eye on leg-spinner Yasir Shah. “Watching him go about his work is unbelievable.”