Pakistan are set to depart for England on Tuesday where they will first take on the hosts in a five-match ODI series and a one-off T20 before commencing their World Cup operations.
The Men in Green do not go to England in the best of forms having suffered an embarrassing 5-0 ODI whitewash at the hands of Australia in the UAE but that has done little to dampen Sarfraz’s optimism.
“Look, when we go as favourites, then it’s a problem, but if we go as underdogs then other teams feel the danger, so I think being underdogs is good for us and eases the pressure,” the wicketkeeper-batsman stated in a press conference in Lahore on Monday.
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur was in confident mood as well in the media interaction with the South African targeting a semi-final run at the minimum.
“I think these are exciting times for Pakistan cricket and for the team,” said Arthur.
Sarfaraz Ahmed (left) and Mickey Arthur held their press conference at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday. The team leaves for England for a T20I and five ODIs, and the @cricketworldcup early Tuesday morning.@SarfarazA_54#WeHaveWeWill— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) April 22, 2019
ICYMI watch it here: https://t.co/YAp31RSNmK pic.twitter.com/copUNPGiyd
“The initial thing is to qualify for the last four and take it from there, so I think we have the potential to certainly go all the way but before that we have to play very well,” he added.
With all 10 participating teams set to play each other in the rejigged format, all eyes will be on Pakistan’s clash with arch-rivals India on June 16 at Old Trafford in Manchester.
India have beaten Pakistan in each of the six previous World Cup clashes between the two sides but skipper Sarfraz is taking confidence from his side’s 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final triumph over their neighbours.
“For us all nine matches are important so we will take every match as a match against India,” Sarfraz opined.
“We have beaten India in a bigger event recently so we will have that advantage,” he continued.
A 17-man Pakistan squad will depart for England on Tuesday with Mohammad Amir and Asif Ali as the two extra players added for the five-match ODI series against the hosts. Leg-spinner Shadab Khan has been ruled out of the ODI series with a virus and it will be Yasir Shah who will take his place in the squad.
Asghar Afghan has made the cut for the 15-man squad despite being removed from the Afghanistan captaincy across all three formats just recently.
There was a recall for pacer Hamid Hassan who last played an ODI for Afghanistan nearly three years ago on June, 2016. The 31-year-old has previously played 32 ODIs and 22 T20s for Afghanistan where he has picked up 56 and 32 wickets respectively.
“Luckily for us, the come-back of senior Fast bowler Hamid Hassan is a good news. However, we will take into account his form and fitness during upcoming practice matches,” Afghanistan chief selector Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai stated.
The final teams for the World Cup was selected after a 23-man probable squad was put through a training camp held at Potchefstroom in South Africa. Three of the players who failed to make the final cut – Ikram Ali, Sayed Shirzad and Karim Janat – have been designated as the reserve players for the World Cup squad.
“As chief selector, it is my duty to select a competitive team. However, there were some challenges that we needed to handle. We selected the best squad considering factors such as experience, fitness, team balance, current form and conditions,” said Dawlat Khan.
“We hope to play great cricket without any fear and with a fighting spirit in the tournament.”
Afghanistan are slated to open their World Cup campaign on June 1 when they take on five-time champions Australia.
AFGHANISTAN 15-MAN WORLD CUP SQUAD
Gulbadin Naib (C), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, CRashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan and Mujeeb ur Rahman.
The India Test deputy skipper will have plenty of time on his hands in the summer after not being considered for selection in the 15-man ODI squad for the 2019 World Cup in England.
According to a report by IANS, Rahane has submitted an application to the BCCI and its Committee of Administrators (CoA) to seek permission to play for Hampshire from May to mid-July this year.
If granted permission to do so, Rahane will play in the County circuit for the first time in his professional career. Last year, India’s top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara had turned out for Yorkshire in the County Championship First Division while skipper Virat Kohli was due to play for Surrey before pulling out due to a late injury.
“There is no reason why Rahane wouldn’t be granted permission as the likes of Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara were also given the go-ahead,” a senior BCCI official was quoted as saying by IANS.
“Also, Rahane isn’t a part of the World Cup team, so he won’t have any international commitment at that time. He wants to play four-day games and that should actually help him when he returns to play Test cricket for India after the showpiece event gets over in England and Wales,” the official added.
Rahane is currently leading Rajasthan Royals in the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) where he has so far scored 201 runs in eight innings.