Amir to audition for World Cup berth in England series, say Sarfraz and Arthur



We have we will. Pakistan's theme for the upcoming World Cup

We have we will. Pakistan’s theme for the upcoming World Cup © Getty

Despite Sarfaraz Ahmed’s claim that the team management “already have in (their) minds which team (to) take to the World Cup”, Mohammad Amir has a chance to make the final cut by putting up performances in the limited-overs series against England. In their last press conference ahead of Pakistan’s departure for England, both Sarfaraz and Mickey Arthur said the left-arm pacer will be provided opportunities against England to showcase his worth in those conditions.

“Amir has an opportunity in the England series [to make the final cut],” Sarfaraz said at the PCB headquarters in Lahore. “He has been working hard here and has shown that in his bowling in the training camp. In the practice match yesterday, he looked good while bowling. We will try to provide him an opportunity in England so he can perform.

“It will be a good competition amongst our pacers. We have taken six fast-bowlers so we can rotate and not put any of them under pressure.”

Since he starred in Pakistan’s win over India in the ICC Champions Trophy final two years ago, Amir’s ODI form has gone downhill. He has since been averaging over 92, picking up only five wickets in 101 overs.

The selection committee and the team management, however, still tag Amir as a ‘big-match player’ due to which he has been provided an opportunity to audition for the World Cup berth. He was named as an additional player, alongside Asif Ali, for the one-off T20I and five ODIs against England that precedes Pakistan’s World Cup campaign.

“He is running well and his attitude has been outstanding,” said Arthur of Amir. “He’s been brilliant in the last couple of weeks and he will have opportunities in England to show us he still deserves a spot in the World Cup squad.”

Hasnain – The X-factor

Though Amir still has a chance, Pakistan completely overlooked Usman Shinwari, their best bowler average-wise from the Champions Trophy onwards, for young pacer Mohammad Hasnain, who has the ability to clock 150kph consistently. The right-armer from Hyderabad impressed in the PSL earlier this year which fast-tracked him to the national side and he eventually made his List ‘A’ debut against Australia in the five-match ODI series in the UAE last month. He, according to Arthur, will be part of game plans for several oppositions.

The fast progression may astound many. But, this is how Pakistan usually go about their business. Just two years ago, they, despite handing debuts to three players in the Champions Trophy, went on to win the tournament.

“In Hasnain, we’ve got an X-factor player,” Pakistan head coach said. “Our captain has a player he can throw the ball to if he needs a wicket, if he needs to strike. We understand he’s inexperienced. Sometimes inexperience and youth brings about a lot of attitude. And we’re hoping he gives us that.

“He comes into the occasion certainly against four of the nine teams we are playing. When you’re talking Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and West Indies, those are teams we’re going to have to beat them with express pace. So he forms part of an initial game plan for us.”

Pakistan’s bowling plans suffered a blow on Sunday after it was revealed that Shadab Khan will not turn out in the England series due to illness. The decision to replace him with Yasir Shah, who has largely been ineffective in one-day cricket, received wide criticism.

Defending the call, Arthur said: “Wrist spinners are in vogue in cricket at the moment. So when we sat with Inzi [Inzamam ul Haq, Pakistan chief selector], Saifi and I looked for a wrist spinner as Shadab’s replacement. Yasir was the quickest to 200 wickets, albeit in another format. But that shows he can bowl.

“The last two ODIs we played against Australia, he bowled the best he did in that series. The key for Yasir is to challenge both edges. If Yasir’s challenging both inside and outside edges of the bat, he becomes a different beast. If he only challenges the outside edge, players can line him up and hit him one side of the ground. Yasir is under no illusions he has to challenge the inside edge as well and that means he has to bowl his googly more often. He bowled his googly with decent effect in those last couple of games.

“The conditions in the UAE were such the wickets were especially flat and didn’t turn. If we get on a wicket that just grips a little bit, Yasir is a bowler we still feel can be a weapon for us. But, time will tell on whether we decide to pick him for the final World Cup squad.”

“Shoaib Malik will bat at six”

Pakistan’s recent record against quality oppositions has remained abysmal as they have been whitewashed by New Zealand in an away series and most recently by Australia in the UAE. They were the most unimpressive side in the Asia Cup and were beaten 3-2 by South Africa earlier this year.

But putting it all behind, Sarfaraz vowed his side will play out of their skins. There will even be changes in the batting order.

“I can assure you that we have prepared very hard and we will outstretch ourselves to have results in our favour in the World Cup,” he said. “We should leave what happened in the past in the past. Seven to eight of our players were rested for the Australia series. Yes we did make some mistakes in the past, but we won’t repeat them.

“We have a different batting order. I will bat in the top positions, mainly top five, and Shoaib [Malik] bhai will play at six.”

“We have done it in the past and we can do it again. We have won all the ICC Men’s World Cups whether it was the 2006 [U-19 World Cup], World T20 [in 2009] or the ’92 World Cup. We have even won the Champions Trophy. That’s why we have the caption ‘We Will, We Have’,” he said, somewhat misreading a panaflex at his back which read ‘We Have We Will’ – Pakistan’s theme for the World Cup.

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