Sarfraz puts responsibility on seniors for World Cup qualification

Sarfraz Ahmed

Pakistan’s newly-appointed ODI skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has emphasized the role of senior players, especially bowlers Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir, in their bid for automatic qualification to the ICC World Cup 2019. Pakistan will start the tour of West Indies with a four-match T20 series from March 26.

“In the T20 format we might have a relatively young bowling side but in ODIs we have three senior bowlers – Amir, Wahab and Junaid Khan. We have spoken to them and reminded them that they are seniors, have played ample cricket, and now have to step up,” Sarfraz said.

“We are working on fielding but with our bowling department we need to take wickets with new ball and in middle overs. We have worked very hard in the camp and now I am hopeful that they will make a difference in the West Indies and help Pakistan win with their bowling.”

Quick Read: Cummins, Pujara shine on day 3 in Ranchi

Sarfraz was handed ODI captaincy after Azhar Ali had resigned from the post earlier this year, amidst severe scrutiny following the dismal 1-4 ODI series lost to Australia. Under Azhar’s leadership, Pakistan slumped to a record low rank (9th) in the ICC ODI team rankings and now also faces the challenge of earning the direct entry to the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, which features only the top eight teams.

“I understand that over the last two years Pakistan’s performance in ODI cricket hasn’t been good,” Sarfraz said. We have been trying really hard to minimize our mistakes. There were some flaws, especially in the fielding department, and we have been working hard to iron them out. We were scoring 280 to 290 but then dropping catches in the field, and this was hurting our chances. We are aware how important World Cup qualification is, so our focus is on winning the series and strengthening our position.”

Recently, Pakistan named 16-member squads for both ODI and T20 series against West Indies, which included five uncapped players. Two senior players, Ahmed Shehzad and Kamran Akmal, were also recalled on the back of impressive domestic performances.

“I feel the role of our senior players, especially [Mohammad] Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Amir and Wahab is very important,” Sarfraz said. “There are junior players with us and both Kamran and Ahmed [Shehzad] are making their comeback, so I expect our senior players, including myself, to lead from the front. We have been scoring 280 or so but we need to get totals above 300. Besides, our fast bowlers need to take wickets to give us the best possible chance.”

“These young players that we brought in are very talented and they have been selected after consistent domestic performances. They have been outstanding and this is the reason they got a chance. It’s good that they are getting the opportunity at a time when cricket isn’t being played in the country. It’s also a good sign that they are getting a chance and hopefully these boys can convert their domestic form in international cricket.”

Pakistan captain also expressed disappointment at the alleged PSL corruption scandal that saw five players — including Sharjeel Khan and Mohammad Irfan — provisionally suspended by the PCB.

Quick Read: Mohammad Irfan provisionally suspended from cricket

“It’s a bad thing in many ways and it disappoints you,” Sarfraz said. “Because some players are set in the team, and with their ouster the combination of the team gets upset. Sharjeel was not only settled in but was exactly the sort of player we needed to open the batting. He was the kind of batsman who played cricket in line with modern-day requirements. His absence will be felt but whoever comes in as a replacement will also be an outstanding player, and they can give their best to take Pakistan forward.

Sarfraz denied that the addition of keeper-batsman Kamran Akmal in the side threatened his place and said its good for the team to have more than one players competing for one spot.

“I am not feeling any pressure, it’s a good thing that Kami bhai came in after performing well. Earlier [Mohammad] Rizwan was around with me so there is no pressure at all. Kami bhai has been performing in domestic cricket, and we expect him to contribute here too, which will help Pakistan.”

Read: Bengaluru pitch rated ‘below average’ by match referee

Featured PC: