LAHORE: Pakistan cricket captain Sarfraz Ahmad on Monday expressed his satisfaction at the team’s preparations for the upcoming Asia Cup and said his desire is to see his team setting winning targets of 300-plus in every match of the event.
Talking to journalists here on Monday before the Pakistan team’s departure for the UAE, which is scheduled in the wee hours on Tuesday, Sarfraz said:” Our preparations went well in the hectic camp set up in Lahore amid hot weather. We did five days practice and then played one practice match and assessed the shortcomings.”
“In the UAE, due to hot weather and humidity, it is hard to bat in the night under floodlights and so every team will be keen to bat first,” he said. “I want my batsmen to score 300-plus while batting first as our bowling attack is really good and quite capable of defending it.”
“First priority is to get early momentum in the Asia Cup as we got it in the ICC Champions Trophy in the matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa and successfully carried it till the final,” he recalled.
“Indeed, the match against India is important and if both the teams play the final then it will be a great spectacle.”
Sarfraz admitted that besides India all other teams were also strong and no one should take any team lightly. “I looked at the list of the players of all the teams and feel that every team is competitive. Hong Kong has qualified after winning the final of the qualifying round while Afghanistan is also carrying a good number of talented players. So we have to take every contest seriously if we want to win the cup,” observed Sarfraz.
To a questions regarding his own poor performance with the bat, Sarfraz said he is doing his best to improve in every game improving get over the lean patch. “In Zimbabwe, I tried hard and showed improvement in batting. Inshallah, I will try to perforwell with the bat in the coming days,” he said.
It may be mentioned here that chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq had also expressed his concern about Sarfraz’s poor run with the willow.
Moreover, replying to a question about not grooming a second wicketkeeper as his replacement in case of any injury, Sarfraz said it was not necessary to groom a wicketkeeper with the national team. “Muhammad Rizwan and M Hasan are being groomed with the national A team as wicketkeepers,” he disclosed. “The A teams have a hectic schedule of activities in coming two and half months in the UAE against different teams. And in case of injury to me, the team can call any of them as both the teams will be in the UAE for most of the remaining year,” he said.
“Besides, since the time I have been elevated to captaincy, Pakistan have never played a full series of four rr five Tests But whenever we will be playing a long series, we will surely take along a second wicketkeeper,” he added.
Sarfraz admitted that since the World Cup is drawing nearer, Pakistan team will have to find a winning combination and show better results in the Asia Cup.
He said seasoned all-rounder Muhammad Hafeez is still part of the World Cup’s pool of players and whenever the team would need him he would get his place in the team.
Sarfraz denied that he had gained weight and claimed that his last fitness test proved to be quite good.
About India’s decision to give rest to their captain Virat Kohli, Sarfraz said it was their own decision. However, when asked if he would consider taking rest at some point of his career, he replied: “It is just the start of my career, so there should be no question about taking rest at this stage.”
To a question he said pitches in the UAE were expected to be slow and the spinners could play a vital role there.
He praised the work of the foreign coaches and trainers and said the team is showing definite improvement in all departments of the game including fitness and fielding.
He said though Pakistan lacked fast bowlers who could bowl at nearly 150km, Pakistan had a very good mix of genuine pacers and medium pacers to challenge any team.
Meanwhile, the PCB retained almost the same team management for the Asia Cup and Talat Ali Malik will continue to act as manager.
The team management comprises Talat Ali Malik (manager), Mickey Arthur as head coach, Azhar Mahmood as bowling coach and Grant Flower as batting coach while Grant Bradburn will be the fielding coach. Grant Luden is the team trainer while thep physio is Cliffe Deacon. Assistant manager of the team is Manzoor Rana while Talha Butt is the analyat. Security Manager of the team is Azam Khan and media manager is Emmad Hameed.
The Asia Cup is being held in the UAE from Sept 15 to 28. Besides Pakistan and India, the other participating teams are Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.
Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018