Sarfraz Ahmed has put the ball in the court of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) with regards to the captaincy of the Pakistan side across all formats.
The wicketkeeper batsman has been leading Pakistan across all three formats for some time now although the role is set to come under the scanner following the team’s exit in the 2019 ICC World Cup.
The Men in Green finished fifth on the points table after attaining five wins in their nine games and narrowly missed out on a spot in the semi-final due to their inferior net run-rate compared to New Zealand.
Addressing a media gathering in Lahore on the team’s return from England, Sarfraz stated that the captaincy decision solely rests on the PCB.
“It’s not that I’m saying I refuse to resign,” said the Pakistan skipper.
“All I’m saying is the decision rests with the PCB, the same way as the decision to appoint me captain was taken by them.
“I’m sure they’ll take the decision that’s best for Pakistan.”
Sarfraz lauded the displays of Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi and expressed his satisfaction at the overall display of the squad. Babar’s reputation was further enhanced in the tournament with the right-hander’s tally of 474 runs now being the highest ever registered by any Pakistan batsman in World Cups.
Young Afridi, meanwhile, impressed one and all after picking up 16 wickets in just five matches including a memorable five-wicket haul at Lord’s against Bangladesh.
“The performances overall have been good,” Sarfraz stated.
“The most junior bowler (Shaheen Afridi) picked up 16 wickets. Babar Azam playing his first World Cup batted brilliantly and scored a century and half-centuries.
“As a team, we put up a great fight. It is unfortunate we couldn’t qualify.”
New Zealand coach Gary Stead hopes Lockie Ferguson can make the difference against India after revealing the pace bowler should be fit for their semi-final clash on Tuesday.
The Black Caps were without their leading wicket-taker in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 for their final group-stage game – a 119-run defeat to England at Chester-le-Street.
Ferguson has been a standout performer for New Zealand in the tournament as they finished fourth in the standings, taking 17 wickets to sit joint-third in the table for the most wickets taken.
And after the 28-year-old was rested as a precaution following a hamstring strain, Stead expects him to be back fit and firing for the showdown with India at Old Trafford.
“I absolutely expect Lockie to play. If the last game was a semi-final or final, we probably would have played him, so it was more a precautionary measure not to play him,” he said.
“He definitely had some hamstring tightness and he needed 48 hours for that to settle down. He’s in good shape and barring getting through the next couple of days, then I expect him to play.
“Lockie has been enormous for us. It is his first World Cup as well and I’ve just been delighted that every time he’s come on to bowl, he’s looked like he’s going to make a difference out there.
“Whether that’s through pace, whether that’s through creating pressure for the other person at the other end – he always has been looking likely and hopefully he can do that again against India.”
Stead was also keen to stress his faith in opening batsman Martin Guptill, who has struggled for form after opening the tournament with an unbeaten knock of 73 against Sri Lanka.
“Martin’s got a lot of ODI hundreds and he has been a key player for us in the past. Our job as support staff is to get him in the right frame of mind,” said Stead.
“He’ll go out and express himself and who knows, if he makes 150 in the next game, then we probably won’t be talking about this anymore.
“People go through form slumps and heights all the time. He’s had a tough tournament but there’s nothing from my point of view that suggests that’s going to continue for a long period of time.”
Having lost their last three games of the round-robin stage, New Zealand have been described by some as the weakest of the teams to qualify for the semi-final stage.
But Stead is more than happy to let the Black Caps be considered the underdogs as they attempt to reach their second World Cup final, following their defeat to Australia in the 2015 showpiece.
“We’ve got a couple of afternoons to be ready for India now,” he said.
“I’m just excited about it as India are a quality team and there’s no doubt they’ve got match-winners throughout their line-up.
“I said from the very start, whoever we play, we’re going to have to be somewhere near our very best to beat them but that’s the excitement, that’s the challenge in front of us.
“Hopefully, you’ll see what Kiwis are made of out there and our never-say-die attitude; we will stand up when we need to. There are no second chances now, are there?
“People aren’t expecting us to win and from my point of view, I think that’s a good place to be because if that’s the case, we can go out there and play with some real freedom.”
Virat Kohli is contented with his understated role in India’s batting line-up at the World Cup as he admitted the pressure is constantly on his side ahead of their semi-final showdown against New Zealand.
Kohli is often held up as the gold standard in one-day internationals, with 41 centuries at an average approaching 60 helping him top the format’s ICC batting rankings.
However, he has yet to reach three figures in this tournament, with Rohit Sharma India’s standout performer with the bat so far.
The opener became the first man to register five centuries in a single World Cup campaign, contributing 103 – his third hundred in a row – to help India brush aside Sri Lanka over the weekend and finish top of the group table.
Kohli, though, is happy to defer to his team-mate – now second in the world rankings – saying on the eve of their clash against the Kiwis at Old Trafford: “It’s been a different kind of role that I’ve had to play in this World Cup.
“As the captain of this team, I’ve been open to playing any kind of role that the team wants me to. It’s great that Rohit is scoring so consistently.
“I’ve been very happy with holding one end and letting guys express themselves. I know that I can accelerate in the end. Personal milestones, honestly, is something that no one ever focuses on.
“But I hope he gets two more (hundreds) so that we can win two more games because it’s an outstanding achievement, we’ve never seen anyone get five hundreds in a World Cup.
“World Cup is all the more pressure and he’s just been outstanding. He deserves all the credit and, according to me, he’s at the moment the top ODI player in the world.”
Champions in 2011, India were knocked out at the semi-final stage four years ago, Kohli participating in both campaigns, but they have been tipped by many to go all the way again this time.
With expectation comes an intense level of pressure but Kohli revealed that is par for the course for his side as a result of the cricket obsession in India.
He believes being regularly expected to shoulder the burden – not only for the national team but in high-profile events such as the Indian Premier League – means India will handle the tight moments better than the Black Caps.
He said: “The Indian team always carries a lot of expectation and pressure whenever we play.
“We are quite used to that over the years. We are better equipped to react in these situations because we know what these kind of games and our fan base and the expectations bring.
“I can’t remember the last time I stepped onto the field and thought ‘It doesn’t really matter what happens in this game’.
“For the Indian team there is always full stadiums and people expect you to do well. There’s always pressure, as well as opportunity.”
The team that has batted first at Old Trafford has prevailed in all five matches here at the World Cup, but Kohli said: “We are not worried about the toss. It’s an uncontrollable. You can’t predict what’s going to happen.
“You have to be prepared both ways. We are quite open to that. And if it is a factor, it’s a factor.
“We can’t say if we lose the toss we have no hope. We should believe enough in ourselves as a side to overcome any situation.”
Tuesday’s fixture is not the first time Kohli and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson have gone head-to-head in a World Cup semi-final, having faced off for their countries at Under-19 level in February 2008.
On that occasion, India triumphed – and Kohli even bagged the crucial wicket of Williamson.
However, Kohli said with a smile: “I got Kane’s wicket? Did I? I don’t know if that can happen again.
“I’m sure he remembers and when we meet tomorrow, I’m going to remind him.”
Provided by Press Association Sports