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England series exposed Pakistan’s lack of fitness: Wahab Riaz

England series exposed Pakistan’s lack of fitness: Wahab Riaz

KOLKATA: As Pakistan prepare to take on New Zealand, one of the more agile sides in world cricket today, all-rounder Wahab Riaz says recent defeats to England had exposed his team’s lack of fitness.

“I think we lack fitness,” Riaz told this reporter in an interview.

“As compared to England, we were not as fit.”

But fitness is not the only concern according to Riaz. There are serious issues in bowling and batting departments as well.

“We did not bowl well in the last overs, we got to do well here,” Riaz said.

“Plus, we need to attack more as a batting unit.”

The lack of intent with the bat when it mattered most was forcefully driven home in the third and final T20 at Sharjah on November 30, 2015, which England won to seal the series 3-0.

With two runs needed from two balls for a Pakistan win in that game to avoid an English whitewash, Shoaib Malik lobbed a catch to long-on off Chris Woakes, reducing the number of available deliveries to one, but with no runs added.

On the last ball, Sohail Tanvir failed to connect but scrambled for a bye, leading to the scores being tied.

In the allotted six balls with the bat in the Super Over, Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal managed only three runs.

When it was Pakistan’s turn to field, Anwar Ali fumbled while trying to hold on to a throw and effect a run-out.

In the melee, England scampered to victory.

Riaz is not overly worried about the team’s fielding – an area that was a source for concern for many during the last World Cup.

Neither is he anxious about missing out on wickets because of dropped catches. “I always got wickets with this team, and I know I will always get wickets with this team.”

Plus, he said referring to the last T20 game against England, “a lot depends on your luck and we didn’t have that much of great luck that day”.

The team was “definitely” serious about fielding drills, and “are working very hard to doing a lot of fielding sessions”, he said.

“Hopefully, we will get better and better [with time].”

In an earlier interview to this reporter, head coach Waqar Younis had sounded similarly upbeat about the team’s improvement in fielding. The differentiator, he said, was Mohammad Rizwan.

“Standard has improved since the Sri Lanka series ... since Rizwan has come,” Waqar said. “I must give credit to him, he has given a different look to fielding [in the Pakistani side].”

Waqar acknowledged that the side had to raise the bar against the Kiwis, known for their high standards on the field.

The coach even cited the examples of not only Australia and South Africa but India and Sri Lanka as well to emphasise the importance of fielding in modern cricket.

“Why talk of only New Zealand? They [other international sides] all know that when it comes to 5-10 runs difference, fielding will make that difference,” Waqar said.

Pakistan kick off their New Zealand tour with a T20 at Eden Park in Auckland on January 15. They play three T20s and three ODIs over two weeks, the last game being on January 31.

Riaz said he was looking at the tour as a chance to get some match practice before the World T20 in India scheduled in March.

Waqar’s squad have a tight schedule ahead over the next three months; the New Zealand tour is followed immediately by the Pakistan Super League (PSL) over February 4-24 in the UAE, and the T20 Asia Cup in Bangladesh between February 24 and March 6.

The World T20 begins two days later, with Pakistan playing its first match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on March 16 against a qualifier.

They meet India in their second fixture on March 19 at Dharamshala, the first face-off since the two sides met a year ago in Adelaide in the ODI World Cup. Pakistan had then lost by 76 runs.

Riaz said the PSL in Dubai and Sharjah would mean playing on tracks similar to the ones expected in India, which are slower, and “good for batting and some good for bowling too”.

According to him, the upcoming New Zealand series is “good preparation”.

“We should know where we stand right now as a team,” said Riaz, who maintained he had no issues with Mohammad Amir finding a slot in the side.

“We have a few youngsters in the side, we are trying to build a good team and we hope to get a lot of experience, a lot of exposure in New Zealand,” he said.

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