Sarfraz delighted, cautions team to prepare for bigger challenge in England


KARACHI: After Pakistan reconfirmed their status as the top-ranked side in the ICC Twenty20 team rankings, Sarfraz Ahmed warned his charges the coming months as a huge challenge starting with Test fixtures in Ireland and England.
Addressing the post-series media conference on Tuesday night after Pakistan completed a clean sweep of the West Indies in the back-to-back three matches at the National Stadium to open a four-point gap atop ICC T20 team rankings over second-placed Australia (126 points), Sarfraz pointed out his team have to improve in all areas of their game if they are to face and endure the rigours of the three formats.
“We were extremely good in this T20 series and the most heartening factor was the way new players have performed. We gave full opportunities to both Hussain Talat and Asif Ali and they fared impressively. In the last match, Shaheen Shah Afridi played and he also did well,” the Pakistan captain told reporters.
“However, we need to improve in the other two formats [Tests and ODIs] if Pakistan are to become a good side. The coming months won’t be easy for us and we’ve to plan accordingly for the Tests in Ireland and England,” the skipper cautioned. “Our preparations have to be very good from the onset. There is a camp which is being set up in Lahore from this week and when we head to the UK, we will train there as well as before a couple of side games ahead of the Test against Ireland. And then the bigger challenge is the two Tests against England,” he added.
“Both Mickey Arthur [head coach] and I feel that we should have a decent pool of players for all formats to meet the team requirements. This series [against West Indies] saw Hussain and Asif emerge as good finds and I’m sure the selectors will focus on more new and young players. This will help Pakistan in the period leading to the World Cup. But our foremost priority is the forthcoming series,” he added. Sarfraz reckoned Pakistan should be credited for outplaying West Indies convincingly throughout the series.
“The [T20] series may have been one-sided in terms of play but credit must be given to our team for producing very good cricket throughout the three matches. At the end of the day, people are saying that they [West Indies] had a weak team. Our board invited the West Indies and whatever the makeup of their side it was no concern of ours,” Sarfraz said.
“One cannot say that we won because the opposition was very weak or something else. The fact is that Pakistan defeated West Indies and for us that was what we had striven for. The impression that West Indies field their best side is incorrect. Some of them were on the recent tour [ICC World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe] and a couple had played in the PSL recently. Obviously, we beat a national side and if they were lacking in competitiveness then it is their problem.” Sarfraz also urged foreign teams to refrain from raising security concerns about Pakistan hosting international series and matches. “People should realise what Pakistan had gone through since the tragic scenes of 2009 when Sri Lanka were victims of terror attacks in Lahore.