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.
Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns
Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.
“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.
“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”
“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.
The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.
Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.
Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.
Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.
Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.
“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.
“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.
Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect
London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.
Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.
Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.
While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.
It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.
While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.
“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.
“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”
The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.
Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto
London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.
The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.
“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”
Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”
Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.