By Nick Said
CAPE TOWN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq reiterated his belief that the continued boycott of his country by international sides is hindering their chances of becoming the leading test nation.
Ongoing security concerns mean the last test match played in Pakistan was against Sri Lanka in 2009, one of just four home fixtures for the side in the last seven years.
In that time, the Pakistanis have played "home" matches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and even England.
Four years ago, armed militants attacked the tourists' team bus in Lahore, killing eight Pakistanis and wounding six Sri Lankan players, with the incident bringing an end to tests in the country for the foreseeable future.
There was hope that Bangladesh would tour last month, but that too has been shelved over safety concerns.
"There is no doubt that this is a problem for us, it is difficult to be the top cricket team in the world when you do not play in your home conditions," Misbah told reporters in South Africa, where Pakistan are currently touring.
South African captain Graeme Smith offered his sympathy for Pakistan's plight, but admitted he would chose not to tour the country if a proposed visit was put forward.
"I obviously sympathise with their situation. I have been to Pakistan five times in the past, but I would have serious concerns as to my safety going there under present circumstances."
Misbah added that the fact his side played just six test matches in 2012 gave little opportunity for the players to gain experience in the longer form of the game.
"We have played some very good test cricket in the last two-and-a-half years, but not enough matches. If you look at the experience in this South African side, they have players with over 100 matches and others with more than 50.
"Because we have not played much, our team has players with just a few games and little experience. That makes it difficult to compete."
The Pakistan side that lost the second test of the three-match series against South Africa on Sunday had a combined 277 test caps between them, with Younus Khan (81) the only player with more than 50 appearances.
The Proteas, by contrast, had amassed 597 caps, with five players having passed 50 and Morne Morkel on the cusp with 49.
However, it could be argued that the touring side's relative inexperience has more to do with the rebuilding of the team than a lack of matches, as since the start of 2010, Pakistan have played 28 tests to South Africa's 30.
South Africa lead the current series 2-0 with the third and final test starting at Centurion on Friday. (Editing by John O'Brien)