Pakistan's Training Session in Edinburgh
From Talha Syed
During a day (month!) jam-packed with exam revision, the hour I spent with the Pakistan squad today as they trained during a chilly Edinburgh morning was a breath of fresh air. First of all I would like to thank Saj and Cricket Scotland for allowing me to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was the sole media presence at the team's first practice session since arriving from Pakistan, allowing me the luxury of freely covering proceedings during the training session.
I arrived with the practice session half-way through and straight away sensed the positivity in the air. The mood in the camp seemed very good and the team looked like they were enjoying their drills. Clearly the time spent in Abbottabad has had an effect on the cohesiveness of the squad. As expected the boys were very well wrapped-up, with some of the players sporting some cool Pakistan Cricket hoodies and caps.
I stood at the entrance to the Pavilion, eagerly awaiting the go-ahead to take pictures as a number of Pakistani cricketers walked by. Ehsan Adil smiled and said Salaam as he went to get a quick snack whilst the squad carried on net practice and Julien Fountain set up various fielding drills around the ground.
Eventually I got the phone call authorising me to take photographs, just as Nasir Jamshed walked by. I asked Nasir for a quick picture as he came up to me and jokingly took my camera saying in Urdu “Haan zaroor mey aap ki tasweer leyta hoon!” which translates to “Yes sure, I’ll take your picture!”. He handed me back the camera and posed for a picture, asking if he looked alright or whether he should take off his hat - he seemed like a very friendly and approachable guy.
Whilst Jamshed walked away to re-join practice, he asked where I was from and I told him PakPassion. “Oh yes I know about PakPassion and have spoken to PakPassion on the phone a few times” he yelled back as he jogged off. Shortly afterwards, Abdur Rehman walked by padded-up and said he would also get his picture taken after his batting session.
As I was talking to one of the Cricket Scotland employees, who was in charge of making sure the team were comfortable in Scotland, Misbah-ul-Haq came strolling over for a small chat. He also seemed like a very friendly guy as I wished him thebest of luck in the Champions Trophy. The employee from Cricket Scotland mentioned something about the bad press he got after he played the paddle scoop in the 2007 T20 Final, to which Misbah replied “just ignore the press”. I told Misbah that the press conference which Hafeez and he had during the President’s Trophy was fantastic and was exactly what was needed. He thanked me, shook my hand and re-joined practice.
Abdur Rehman came back from batting and stuck to his word - he came straight over to me and asked if I wanted to take that picture now. He again seemed like a great guy. Rehman was the last batsmen to come off as the team got ready to carry out some fielding drills.
The team split up into two groups – one with the Pakistan fitness trainer and Mohammad Akram, whilst the other with Julien Fountain. Dav Whatmore worked with Kamran Akmal.
The fielding drills consisted of a couple of light-hearted moments. At one stage Saeed Ajmal ran off with Jamshed’s cap as Jamshed shouted “Saeed Bhai mujeh zukaam ho jayega!” [Saeed, I will get a cold!]. The team were clearly battling hard in the cold Scottish summer. Ajmal was very much the joker in the group, randomly bursting out in song such as “Mey nikla o gaddi ley ke!” when he would run out of the blocks to field the ball. Hafeez tried very hard to encourage the boys throughout the fielding drills, constantly clapping everyone on.
There were a couple of mishaps in the field – firstly when Ehsan Adil almost collided with the advertisement boards and then when Nasir Jamshed went sliding into the side boards. Every time there was a misfield though, Ajmal always had something to say which lightened the mood.
As the Scotland team arrived, the Pakistani side wrapped up their practice session. The teams were more than happy to pose for pictures. The management team was also very friendly and approachable.
I had a brief chat with Julien Fountain, who said the weather in Abbottabad was nothing like the five degrees Celsius the team were facing in Edinburgh. The managers were also very friendly and welcoming, coming over for chats all wrapped-up in their hoodies.
Whilst walking off, Saeed Ajmal asked me when we were going to publish the interview he did with Saj bhai recently. He was quite happy when I let him know it was published last night. Dav Whatmore also came over for a chat, inquiring about who the coach of Scotland was and where he is from.
What was really refreshing, was after the entire team had left, the two captains - Misbah and Hafeez – stayed out in the park doing fitness drills for another 20 minutes. The leaders certainly were leading from the front.
I also had a chat with a couple of Scotland boys who were very much looking forward to playing against Pakistan. Safyaan unfortunately has picked up an injury and will not be fit to play, but Majid Haq was raring to go!
Overall it was an absolutely phenomenal experience, as all parties involved – the Pakistan cricket team, the Scotland cricket team, Cricket Scotland and the Pakistani management team were all very friendly, welcoming and approachable.