The Blackcaps have not played any international cricket since the completion of the Test series against England at the start of April this year.
“There is a lot of cricket being played in different competitions and also the guys have had some cricket but it’s an unusually long time between internationals,” the Kiwi skipper said on the eve of the clash.
“I guess it makes the guys very excited to get back involved and it is a great country to come to and play cricket against Pakistan, who are one of the strongest teams in the world at the moment.”
Williamson, however, knows that taking on the No1 T20-ranked Pakistan in their ‘home’ ground will not be an easy task given how easily they dismantled Australia in the preceding series.
“Obviously Pakistan are a strong side. That’s something we’ve known for a long time. The last time we played against them was at home in New Zealand and it was a tough series,” said Williamson.
“Coming over here, they are extremely strong in these conditions. Their rankings suggest that as well. They have had a lot of success in the format in recent times,” he added.
“We know it’s a tough challenge and one that we are looking forward to.”
The Blackcaps will have to make do without the services of experienced opener Martin Guptill for the series, but Williamson is backing the other players to step up in his absence.
“It’s a shame we don’t have Martin for this series. He’s obviously is a world class player for us and a big performer but it also provides the opportunities for some other guys mentioned, the guys who have come from the New Zealand A team, and that’s the nature of it.”
The Kiwis have handed all-rounder Corey Anderson a recall for the series along with batsman Glenn Phillips. Uncapped spinner Ajaz Patel is the newest addition to their T20 squad.
The men in green are flowing with confidence after their demolition of Aaron Finch’s Australia as they now take on their Trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand in a three-match series.
“It is an important series after getting the Australians out of the way. Our focus is now on New Zealand and they are also a tough side and performed well in the T20 format. Our aim will be to carry the momentum which is on our side. Always the first match of the series is important. We will try to set the tone straightaway so that we can have a good series ahead,” the Pakistan skipper said.
The wicket-keeper batsman expects the Kane Williamson-led Blackcaps to give Pakistan a tough examination in the series.
“The Australian team was more strong as they had players who can change the game with one innings. New Zealand also have some good players in (Colin) Munro, Williamson, fast bowler Adam Milne, Lockie Ferguson and then there is Tim Southee, so they are also a strong side. We will try to make sure they keep playing good cricket,” he said when asked to compare the two sides.
The 3-0 clean sweep of Australia was the 10th bilateral T20 series in row Pakistan have now won under the captaincy of Sarfraz. Since September 2016, Sarfraz’s men have won a staggering 26 of their 30 completed matches in the format with the skipper enjoying a success-rate of greater than 86 per cent.
Sarfraz has attributed this phenomenal run to the young blood in the squad and their rising fielding standards.
“The important fact behind our success is that we have new boys in the squad. So we are a young and energetic side. The main difference also is our fielding. Our fielding in the shorter format has improving impressively,” he explained.
“Whenever our team has required a good catch or a run out, we have managed to get that. I think our fielding has been extraordinary in the shorter format when you compare with other teams. We have seen that in the series against Australia. Shoaib (Malik) took three exceptional catches and other boys also did the same. The main difference is the fitness and fielding which is better than other teams,” he continued.
The Pakistan skipper revealed that he would field the same playing XI that featured in the final T20 clash against Australia for Monday’s game with opening batsman Fakhar Zaman once again missing out due to a knee injury.
“Fakhar Zaman is still not fit, he has a knee problem and difficulty with sideways movement. Hopefully he will be fit for the next matches,” said Sarfraz.
The 31-year-old also took the opportunity to congratulate veteran Shoaib Malik after the all-rounder announced the birth of his first child on Wednesday.
“Congrats to Shoaib and his family for the birth of his son. Shoaib will be here tomorrow morning and will be available for the session and the match as well,” he stated.
Former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi has sent his successor Ehsan Mani a legal notice for releasing details for his personal expenses during his tenure as the head of the governing body.
Sethi has sent a three-page legal notice to Mani after a recent PCB audit claimed that his perks and remunerations as chairman had run up to nearly seven crore Pakistan rupees.
“I am being victimised and targeted and I will not tolerate this. My lawyer has sent a legal notice to the PCB Chairman for trying to defame me,” Sethi was quoted as saying by the PTI (Press Trust of India).
The former PCB chief has termed the figures published on the body’s website as ‘misleading and defamatory’.
“The chart is deliberately misleading and defamatory. It presents incorrect figures, withholds information and deliberately avoids noting that all payments in question were authorised by the PCB’S BoGs (Board of Governors) under the relevant rules. The chart is therefore defamatory,” part of the legal-notice published by Geo News states.
“There is no valid business reason for the release of such incorrect and misleading information. Instead, the publication of the chart is clearly intended solely to malign Mr Sethi, presumably at the behest of Mr Imran Khan. It is unfortunate beyond measure that you are complicit in the abuse of the PCB for mala fide purposes,” it adds.
Sethi had resigned from his post in the PCB in August this year after Imran Khan was officially elected as the new Prime Minister of the country. Subsequently, Mani had been appointed to the post vacated by Sethi after his name was recommended by Imran Khan.