Although Pakistan were drubbed 5-0 by Australia in the ODI series held in the UAE recently, their batting coach Grant Flower has found a few positives to take ahead of the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.
Pakistan had opted to rest several senior stars in the series including skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman in a bid to test their fringe players ahead of the World Cup.
“It was always going to be difficult to beat Australia given how many players we were resting, so in that sense the series result appears worse than it perhaps is,” the Pakistan batting coach told ESPNcricinfo in an interview.
The former Zimbabwe international was encouraged by the batting displays of Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan and debutant Abid Ali in the five-match series.
Sohail and Rizwan both struck two centuries apiece in the series whitewash while Abid Ali became only the third Pakistan batsman in history to register a ton on ODI debut.
“Rizwan’s been playing well, but he looked more in charge of his own mind this time. Less frenetic and paced his innings better. He’s good enough to bat in the top four, but I also think he’s versatile enough to play lower down. His running between the wickets is among the best of our players,” Flower said.
“Haris is a class player and he showed that. His knee’s getting stronger now, and he’s working a lot harder at his fitness. He’ll be the first to admit he didn’t put in the hard yards quite as much earlier in his career, but he’s seeing the benefits of the work he’s putting in now.
“Abid’s century was of course brilliant to see. I wasn’t expecting it, since we hadn’t done much work with him before the series. I’d been told how good he was, but to see him timing the ball as beautifully as he did was very encouraging. Front foot, back foot, offside, legside, you name it. The Australians were very impressed by him.”
Pakistan have announced a 23-man probable squad for the World Cup which will undertake a two-day fitness camp at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore beginning on April 15. The final 15-man squad for the World Cup will be declared two days later on April 18.
On Friday, the ACB Selection Committee announced the decision to remove Afghan from the national team’s captaincy across all three formats. In his place, Gulbadin Naib (ODI), Rashid (T20I) and Rahmat Shah (Test) were named as the skippers in a split captaincy.
Taking to Twitter to express his opposition to the move, Rashid wrote, “With all the respect to the Selection Committee, I strongly disagree with the decision as it is irresponsible & bias.”
“As we have the World Cup in front of us, Asghar Afghan should remain as our team Captain. His captaincy is highly instrumental for team success. With just months to go for such a mega event like World Cup, changing the captain will cause uncertainty and also team morale will be affected,” the leg-spin sensation added.
With all the respect to the Selection Committee, I strongly disagree with the decision as it is irresponsible & bias. As we have @cricketworldcup in front of us, Captain #MAsgharAfghan should remain as our team Captain. His captaincy is highly instrumental for team success .(1/2)— Rashid Khan (@rashidkhan_19) April 5, 2019
Rashid’s Afghanistan and Sunrisers Hyderabad (IPL) team-mate Mohammad Nabi too took to social media to voice his support for Asghar Afghan.
“Being a senior member of the side and having seen the rise of Afghanistan cricket, I don’t think it is the right time to change the captain before the World Cup. The team has gelled really well under Asghar and personally feel he is the right man to lead us,” the all-rounder wrote.
Being a senior member of the side & having seen the rise of Afghanistan cricket @ashrafghani I don’t think it’s the right time to change the captain before the WC @afgexecutive The team has gelled really well under #Asghar & personally feel he is the right man to lead us @hmohib— Mohammad Nabi (@MohammadNabi007) April 5, 2019
The 23 players who have been included in the list will attend a two-day training camp at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore beginning on April 15 where they will all be asked to prove their fitness.
Following the completion of the fitness camp, the final 15-man Pakistan squad for the World Cup will be announced on April 18.
The biggest omissions in the 23-man probable squad are Umar Akmal and Saad Ali who both recently featured in the ODI series against Australia in the UAE where Pakistan were handed a 5-0 drubbing.
While Akmal and Saad Ali have been left out, there is a place for specialist Test seamer Mohammad Abbas, leg-spinner Yasir Shah as well as Shan Masood who scored a half-century in the series against Australia.
There was good news for pacer Mohammad Hasnain as well with the youngster finding a spot in the 23-man squad. 18-year-old Hasnain had impressed for Pakistan Super League (PSL) champions Quetta Gladiators before he was handed his maiden international outing in the series against Australia.
The Men in Green will depart for England for the World Cup on April 23 where they will play a couple of warm-up games against Kent and Leicestershire. Pakistan will then take on hosts England in a five-match ODI series as well as a sole T20I before opening their World Cup campaign on May 31 against West Indies at Trent Bridge.
23-MAN PROBABLE PAKISTAN SQUAD
Sarfaraz Ahmed (c), Abid Ali, Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah.