Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed has said he is confident Pakistan will deliver when it matters and that the team will peak at the right time despite losing their first warm-up game ahead of the World Cup.
Pakistan lost their first warm-up match to Afghanistan by three wickets at Bristol on Friday. “We’ve already learned a lot,” he said. “Playing in five different grounds, on different types of pitches, means we know the conditions pretty well now. We’ve been here for almost a month and are adapting to the conditions well.”
Sarfraz added, that he is confident about his team and that he is happy to see his team fighting.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the win [against England]. We came close two times and we just didn’t finish well — but the team is in good shape,” he said.
Speaking about the inclusion of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz in the squad, the 32-year-old said, “It’s good to have Wahab Riaz back in the squad, hopefully, he will do very well in the World Cup. I’m very confident with him, Mohammad Amir and Shadab Khan back in the team that we have good strength in the bowling line-up.”
“We all know the pitches are good in England, but the practice matches have shown us different types of wickets. Against Afghanistan, it was spinning, and in other games, the ball has been swinging,” he added.
“The pitches will be good for bowlers and batters in this World Cup,” Sarfaraz added.
“Pakistan’s past record in England is very good,” Sarfaraz said, adding, “For me, I love to play here, because the pitches are excellent. “We’ve got lots of support here too, so that’s why we play well in England,” he added. Pakistan begin their World Cup campaign against West Indies on May 31 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
Comparisons with Virat Kohli have been a stumbling block for many batsmen in world cricket but Pakistan’s Babar Azam has embraced the challenge wholeheartedly and will carry his country’s hopes at the World Cup.
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur first mentioned Azam, the world’s top-ranked T20 international batsman, in the same breath as Indian skipper Kohli early last year, based on the 24-year-old’s potential across formats. Azam’s international career is just over 100 matches old, but his prowess with the bat has already broken several records. He is the fastest batsman to reach 1,000 T20I runs, taking 26 innings to get there and dethroning Kohli in the process.
He also reached 1,000 ODI runs in 21 innings, a record he shared with an elite group of players, including West Indies great Viv Richards and England power-hitter Kevin Pietersen, until his Pakistan team-mate Fakhar Zaman broke it last year.
Azam’s classy stroke-making has provided the platform for his record-breaking run spree, and he often single-handedly drives Pakistan to competitive totals in sluggish conditions in the United Arab Emirates, the national team’s adopted home.
“We have some serious batsmen in our team but he has the ability to be as good as anyone in the world,” Arthur said of the right-handed batsman.
“If he’s getting us a 100, we’re comfortable we have the batsmen around him to get 300-320.
“Over the last two years, his strike rate is around 80 and he knows he needs to increase that, as do some of the other batsmen and we’ve spoken about that.”
Pakistan have come up short since the start of 2019, beaten by South Africa, Australia and England.
Some impressive totals on small grounds against England this month do not disguise the fact that the team needs more runs in the middle overs. That again encourages comparisons with Kohli, who has often had to hold a thin Indian middle order together and use every opportunity to score in the powerplays.
Azam is confident he can switch gears if the situation demands more aggression. “If I can be number one in the world without power hitting, then I don’t need power hitting,” he said. “But when I need to, I utilise it well.
“My individual role is to take the innings as deep as I can and perform in a way that benefits the team most.”—Agencies