Abdul Qadir, the Pakistan chief selector and former legspinner, has said the national team will turn in a strong performance in the Sri Lanka series despite not playing any Tests in the last year.
"We are aiming to raise a strong team for the series against Sri Lanka," Qadir told the News on Friday. "Our aim is to help Pakistan gain a place among the top-two Test teams and want to start taking steps towards that direction with this series."
Qadir, who was appointed the chief selector last month, said he had had sufficient time to assess the talent in Pakistan. "We've been watching each and every domestic match and are now in a position to even select a strong [Pakistan] B team."
After a year in which Pakistan's fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have faced disciplinary bans and key middle-order batsman Mohammad Yousuf joined the unofficial ICL, Qadir said maintaining team unity was a priority.
"I've talked to Intikhab Alam [Pakistan's coach] and offered my support to promote unity in the team. We can sit down with the players and give them pep talks because team spirit is very important to ensure best possible results."
He was confident the players would perform well if treated with respect. "Take for example the case of Shoaib Akhtar. We made him captain of Federal Areas [in the Pentangular one-day championship] and he has responded really well. He has seldom performed with so much heart in recent times."
Shoaib is currently challenging an 18-month ban from cricket and a fine of Rs seven million (around US$88,000) in the Lahore High Court for allegedly repeatedly violating the players' code of conduct.
Three other areas that Qadir felt Pakistan needed to work on are: the openers, middle-order batting, and spin. "Yousuf's exit has left a big hole in our middle-order and it's very important that we find a good replacement."