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Sarfraz, young guns excite Arthur ahead of WI tour

Sarfraz, young guns excite Arthur ahead of WI tour

KARACHI: Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur has expressed optimism that under Sarfraz Ahmed’s leadership the team will go from strength to strength in the build-up to the ICC 2019 World Cup in England.

In an exclusive interview with Dawn on the eve of national squad’s departure for the West Indies, Arthur reckoned there are exciting times ahead of Pakistan.

“I am very excited about the squad selected for the white ball leg of the tour [which begins with a four-match Twenty20 International series and then followed by three ODIs]. We have rewarded good young players for the form shown in domestic cricket and some really good performances in the PSL,” Arthur said hours before the T20 squad left for Dubai en route to the Gatwick airport in London before catching the long flight to Barbados.

“And then we have coupled those selections with the experience of some performing senior cricketers who have the ability to do dual role in the team.




“I love the injection of younger players who bring a new energy to the team. It is really important for us that we now stay consistent with this team and build them up to the 2019 World Cup.”

Arthur, who will complete one year of his tenure with Pakistan during the course of the three-match Test series against the West Indies in May, said the choice of Sarfraz as captain in place of Azhar Ali is the way to go forward.

“I feel Sarfraz is a very good leader who sets a great example for all. He is not scared to attack in the game and that is the brand of cricket we want to play; we have to, in order to challenge the world’s best teams,” he opined.

“We mustn’t forget that the significance of the upcoming ODI matches in the Caribbean. This series is vital to us as a team because if we play well we will get some breathing space between us and the other teams in terms of the World Cup qualification [Pakistan are recently eighth in the ICC rankings, only five points ahead of West Indies with 89], which is so very important.

“We have picked a team with this in mind as well as the long-term development of the team so that come 2019 we are ready and settled to take on the rest of the world.”

The former coach of South Africa and Australia, who will celebrate his 49th birthday three days after the final Test ends in Dominica on May 14, observed Pakistan generally feel the heat because of high expectations from them.

“There is always pressure on Pakistan to perform and it has to be right because we have an unbelievable and passionate fan base; they expect and demand excellence and good results from us as a unit,” Arthur pointed out.

“[But] we are aware of that and practice and train to make the people of Pakistan proud of us.”

Arthur paid wholehearted tribute to the players who went through a strenuous weeklong training camp in Lahore for the West Indies tour.

“I must admit here that the Lahore camp was superb! The players worked extremely hard on all their disciplines and fitness. We also concentrated a lot on our fielding which needs to keep improving,” he stated.

“The attitude of the players towards training, which was very, very tough, was excellent and we are going to the West Indies very well prepared. We left no stone unturned to be honest from that perspective.”

Arthur further emphasised the three matches at the Providence Stadium in Guyana on April 7, 9 and 11 will would give a fair idea where Pakistan stand in terms of competing at the June 1-18 ICC Champions Trophy in England.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the coming matches will help us find right combinations for the Champions Trophy and I am really hoping that some of our younger players really put their hands up jointly in terms of performance,” he stressed. “It is worth noting though the conditions will be very different and for this reason we will have a training camp in England before the start of the Champions Trophy.”

Before signing off, Arthur offered a word of encouragement to the ardent fans of Pakistan while urging them to stand behind Sarfraz and his team.

“The message for the fans is that we aim to make you proud. We are going to try and put together the brand of cricket that is entertaining to watch and can match us with the world’s best at the moment. Together we all must support our captain Sarfraz and the team he will be leading,” he appealed.

Meanwhile, the 15 players of the T20 squad left on Tuesday night along with the team officials.

Five members of the 16-man ODI team — Moham­mad Amir, Junaid Khan, Asif Zakir, Mohammad Asghar and Fahim Ashraf — will leave for the West Indies on Sunday (March 26).

Combined limited-overs squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz (T20 only), Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees Khan (T20 only), Shadab Khan, Sohail Tanvir (T20 only), Usman Khan Shinwari (T20 only), Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir (ODI only), Junaid Khan (ODI only), Asif Zakir (ODI only), Mohammad Asghar (ODI only), Fahim Ashraf (ODI only).

Team officials: Talat Ali (team manager), Mickey Arthur (head coach), Steve Rixon (fielding coach), Grant Flower (batting coach), Azhar Mahmood (bowling coach), Grant Luden (trainer), Shane Hayes (physiotherapist), Shahid Aslam (in-charge tour operations), Major (retired) Azhar Arif (security manager), Mohammad Talha Ijaz (analyst).

Schedule:

March 26: First Twenty20 International (Bridgetown).

March 30: Second Twenty20 International (Port-of-Spain).

April 1: Third Twenty20 International (Port-of-Spain).

April 2: Fourth Twenty20 International (Port-of-Spain).

April 7: First One-day International (Providence Stadium, Guyana).

April 9: Second One-day International (Providence Stadium, Guyana).

April 11: Third One-day International (Providence Stadium, Guyana).

April 15: Practice match (Trelawny Stadium, Jamaica).

April 22-26: First Test (Kingston).

April 30-May 4: Second Test (Bridgetown).

May 10-14: Third Test (Roseau, Dominica).

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2017

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