There is a lot riding on this series, also involving Australia, because as many as four teams will be eyeing the No1 ranking in the coming weeks.
Pakistan can consolidate their position at the top of the pile if they perform well in the tri-series and reach the final. But if they lose matches in the league stage and providing Australia – ranked third – win all matches, the Aussies can rise to No1 position.
India (second) and England (fourth) will play three T20s against each other from Tuesday and both teams can rise to the No1 spot if they will all matches and both Pakistan and Australia slip in the tri-series in Zimbabwe.
The scenarios is clear for Sarfraz – win most matches and retain the No1 spot. However, the wicketkeeper batsman is wary of conditions in Harare. Pakistan toured the African nation in 2013 and 2015 and pitches were completely different on both occasions. And since the tri-series matches start at 10am local time, Sarfraz said toss will play a crucial role.
“When we toured Zimbabwe in 2013, the wickets were very different. The pitches had grass and the ball was seaming early on. 2015 was completely different as the wickets were slow, had a little bit of moisture,” the skipper said in an interview uploaded on the Pakistan board’s Twitter page.
“Conditions will be important. Since it’s a 10am start, I think toss will be very crucial in the series.”
Also, since it’s the winter season in Zimbabwe, the lowest temperature is expected to be in single digits which should result in nippy conditions at the start.
Apart from the conditions, the opposition will be tricky as well for the No1 T20 team. Zimbabwe are not the strongest team in the world but have defeated Bangladesh and India at home in T20s in 2016, while Australia are a consistent team in the shortest format. Sarfraz insists Pakistan, who are on a seven match winning streak, will take no team lightly.
“Our record in T20 is good,” he added. “But as the game is progressing and getting faster, you can’t take any team lightly. It’s Zimbabwe’s home condition so they know how to play there. Australia are such a strong team. You look at the way they play T20 in their country (Big Bash League), they play very strong cricket. We will try to play our best cricket.”
While expressing delight over new players being picked based on their first-class form, Inzamam lauded the collective vision of the selectors, coach Mickey Arthur and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed during an interview with Sky Sports.
“I understand that there are people who are highly critical of our selection policies saying that the teams should have certain players and so on, but what they need to realise is that the selectors, captain and coach have a certain vision and want to select teams that will not just give us success in the next series but ones that will serve us in the long term,” the Pakistan batting great said.
“One thing to note – and this is something I strongly believe in – is that some of the newer players were picked directly for their first-class performances which will really encourage the players who are doing well at that level.
“What that will prove to aspiring first-class players is that they too can be picked for the national team and also the fact, when given the chance, they are good enough to play international cricket and perform well at that level. All in all, I believe this sort of selection policy will greatly benefit Pakistan cricket.”
The former skipper also responded to claims that he had shown partiality towards his nephew Imam-ul-Haq.
“When it comes to the selection of any batsman, we take the advice of the head coach, Mickey Arthur, and the batting coaches as well. The batting coaches are aware of what work the player has done during the off-season and is a good indicator of his progress,” Inzamam responded.
“In Imam’s case, we asked for a report from the Pakistan batting coach, Grant Flower, and he praised Imam and recommended that he should be included in the side as he has the potential to become a good international player.
“Based on that, we gave Imam a chance to play in the Test side in Ireland and England. Now I am not saying that Imam’s performances during those games were exceptional or he does not have flaws, but what I see in him is the potential to become a better player, as long as he continues to work hard. Now, it depends on the player to avail the chances he gets.”
Pakistan‘s legendary batsman and current selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said India captain Virat Kohli is an all-time great and his performances in the upcoming tour of England should not change that in any way.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Inzamam said that while he expects Kohli to deliver in the upcoming five-match Test series against England, the series should not be seen as a test of the batsman’s legacy.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Virat Kohli is a great player and his performances are proof of this. Just because he has not been able to score heavily in England (in Tests) does not undermine his stature as an all-time great batsman,” Inzamam said in the interview.
“If he is not able to put in a good performance in one or two innings, then that does not in any way reduce his stature as a player. We know that he works hard and he continues to learn day-by-day and we saw that proof in the manner he played in South Africa where he helped his side lift their game.
“Despite the fact that he may not have a good past record there, England need to be wary that a player of Virat Kohli’s quality can easily help his side win the upcoming series between the two sides,” he added.