Kamran Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, is preparing for the tour to India by training in simulated situations and on surfaces he expects to encounter in the Tests and ODIs series. Akmal, who has been under fire for his wicketkeeping skills in recent months, said that he realised the importance of the Indian tour for his career.
"I went there [India] in 2005 and I have a fair idea of the sort of surfaces that could be used in the Tests in particular. I have started training by concentrating on my keeping and takes off the spinners," he said.
He admitted it was tough to keep on the slow Indian pitches and is therefore preparing himself for the challenge both mentally and physically. When Pakistan toured in 2005, the Test series was drawn and they won the ODI contest 4-2, but Akmal expected India to give a tougher fight this time.
"They have some good young players and they have more bowling options which has made them a more consistent side," Akmal, whose hundred in the first Test in Mohali saved the match, said, adding that he did not take the pressure of criticism about his 'keeping skills. "It has been hard for me to ignore calls to replace me. It adds to the pressure but I am learning to accept these things. Watching the way Mark Boucher and Adam Gilchrist perform consistenly over the years is in itself a big motivation for me.
"I look at Boucher and Gilchrist and I know I can take the pressure and also play for a long time," Akmal said. "I convince myself that if they can last for so long having battled through bad form or fitness issues, I know I can also do the same."
For Akmal, in these times of non-stop cricket, fitness was the focus. "Unless you are 100 per cent fit, I don't think you can survive for long in international cricket. It has also helped me be mentally stronger and perform in pressure situations," he said. "Cricket has changed. A wicketkeeper has to be able to bat like a proper batsman to keep his place in the team. The two [Boucher and Gilchrist] are prime examples. Our new trainer has helped me a lot. I am confident despite what people say that I can have a long career."
Pakistan play three Tests and five ODIs in India starting November 5.