Sarfraz bats for Indo-Pak series on home soil

Pakistan captain is against playing bilateral series on neutral venue

Sarfraz bats for Indo-Pak series on home soil PHOTO COURTESY: Peter Della Penna

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed wants India to visit Pakistan for a bilateral series as he is against the idea of playing the matches on a neutral venue.

“We don’t want to play bilateral series against India in UAE as I would  like them to visit Pakistan for a tour and we will do the same because this is how we should proceed in the future rather than playing on a neutral venue,” he said while talking to the Daily Express in an exclusive interview.

Speaking about the upcoming clash between the neighbours on September 19 during the Asia Cup, Sarfraz said matches against India are always important. 

“Every match we play against India, whatever the scenario, is an important game and we will try to put up a good show,” he said.

Sarfraz also said that if there are any changes in the sides that played against Hong Kong, it will be in accordance with the surface they play the match on.

“We decided to go in with four pacers because our opponents [Hong Kong] were a weak side and also because it was a used pitch. Thankfully it worked to great effect as majority of the wickets were picked up by the pacers,” he said. “We will alter our team combination keeping in mind the pitch we play on against India.”

Pakistan captain also brushed aside the notion that their previous victory against India in the ICC Champions Trophy Final in 2017 would be playing on their minds as he feels that things have changed significantly since that particular encounter.

“We are not thinking about our previous victory against India in the Champions Trophy 2017 final because a lot has changed since then,” he said. “This is a different environment with both sides having some notable absences.”

He added: “The team which will play good cricket on the day will win. I hope that the crowd will get to witness a great contest.”

Sarfraz also feels that India have enough quality in their squad despite the absence of their star player and captain Virat Kohli.

“Although Kohli won’t be part of the Indian side but I don’t think that it will make a major difference,” he said. “They also have the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikar Dhawan and MS Dhoni within their ranks to rely on.”

Talking about the pressure that comes with the Indo-Pak match, Sarfraz said: “I have always sent a clear message to my team that they should not worry about the result and should solely focus on giving their best.”

Pakistan skipper was not too worried about the lack of wickets for fast-bowler Mohammad Amir and he is confident that he will be back amongst the wickets soon.

“Amir was slightly out of rhythm during the first match but the bowling coach is working on him and hopefully he will pick up wickets in the next match,” he said.

Sarfraz also praised the performance of let-arm pacer Usman Khan Shinwari and leg-spinner Shadab Khan during the match against Hong Kong — where the duo were the pick of the Pakistan bowlers.

“Usman has gone from strength to strength since making his ODI debut and his consistent performances are a good sign for our team,” he said. “Shadab also bowled really well.”

Sharing his thoughts on the lack of opportunities for middle-order batsmen Sarfraz said: “We are happy that the top-order is scoring majority of the runs as we will go deep in the tournament it will be crucial to have those player in good form because conditions will become difficult for batsmen due to used pitches.”

Under the captaincy of Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan have remained a well-disciplined outfit with hardly any case of misdemeanour coming in the limelight.

“We are a young side but the players have a good understanding of various different things which helps in maintaining a well-disciplined side,” he said. “I won’t take the entire credit for this as the whole team management deserves applause for ensuring that no discipline related issue surface.”

Sarfraz also stressed on the importance of adopting a rotation policy due to the team’s hectic schedule in the upcoming few months.

“We have a hectic schedule in the upcoming few months which is why we will adopt a rotation policy especially in the case of fast bowlers so that there is no excessive burden on them,” he said. “We will try to ensure that we use different set of team in both Test matches and limited overs formats.”

The wicketkeeper-batsman also said that all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez is still part of the team’s 2019 World Cup plans but he was dropped in favour of Shan Masood because of the latter’s supreme run of form in domestic cricket.

“Currently Imam and Zaman are going strongly but Hafeez is still part of our World Cup plans,” he said. “We have to play a lot of cricket before the mega event which will give us enough opportunities to assess the strength and weaknesses of the side but we are yet to decide the pool of players that will travel to play the World Cup.”

He further stated: “Masood scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket and he deserved to be named in the squad on the back of those performances. Right now we are satisfied with the performance displayed by Imam and Zaman and in case we need a replacement, we have Masood as backup.”

Watch full interview of Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed