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Pakistan’s current team combination shaping well for World Cup: Sarfraz

Lahore: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, expressing satisfaction at the national side’s preparations for the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe, said on Wednesday that the main priority is to take the same one-day squad to next year’s World Cup in England.

“We have a good blend of seniors and youngsters in the squad who are performing well and we are trying to rely on the same group of players for the World Cup,” said Sarfraz while talking to reporters after the final day of the three-day training camp at the Gaddafi Stadium was cancelled due to heavy overnight rains.

Pakistan are due to leave for Zimbabwe on Thursday where they will first compete in a tri-nation T20 tournament — that also includes Australia — from July 1 to 8.

‘No team in Twenty20 format should be considered weak’.

Following the T20 series, Pakistan will play five One-day Internationals against Zimbabwe from July 13.

“We have fine young players such as Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Babar Azam and now with Haris Sohail in the team plus the experienced Shoaib Malik, we will try to rely on them in the lead-up to the World Cup,” Sarfraz remarked.

Under Sarfraz’s leadership, Pakistan currently tops the ICC T20 team rankings and had earlier also won the Champions Trophy last year in England where they outclassed India in the final.

The skipper expressed hope that Pakistan would continue their good run in the T20 format as well as in the ODI series.

“We are going to Zimbabwe after decent preparations with this short camp here in Lahore and we’ll have three more days to prepare in Zimbabwe before the tri-series begins. Insha’Allah we are pretty confident of coming back victorious,” Sarfraz added.

Commenting on the level of contest in the upcoming T20 series, the Pakistan captain said no side can be taken lightly in the shortest format.

“To be honest no team in this [T20] format should be considered weak and although the Australians are fielding a new-look side they know how to play T20 cricket.

“So the series will be keenly contested and good cricket is in the offing in Zimbabwe,” Sarfraz said.

Asked what would he be expecting on the upcoming trip, Sarfraz said he had toured Zimbabwe twice — in 2013 and 2015 — and found different kinds of pitches there.

“Currently the weather is cool in Zimbabwe and the match will start early at 10:00am in the morning with moisture in the pitch, it would be a big test for the side batting first,” he opined. “But in our case, the team is performing extremely well in both bowling and batting. We will use the better option in case of winning the toss.”

Sarfraz further said that the boys are united and this is one of the key reasons behind Pakistan’s excellent success rate in limited-overs cricket in recent times.

About his own performance, Sarfraz admitted he has not performed to expectations but said he always tries to give his best and to improve both his batting and keeping.

He, meanwhile, pointed out that despite former wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal’s excellent form with the bat at the domestic level, the selectors opted for Mohammad Hafeez because the veteran all-rounder has the ability to bat in the top order besides being a vital part of Pakistan bowling attack with his off-spinners.

But he did say that Kamran, like any other cricketer, also has a chance to stage a comeback in the national side after the Zimbabwe tour because Pakistan have a busy schedule in the coming months.

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